The challenge with hiding toxic beliefs from the public…

…is that sooner or later, the mask slips.
When you work for a volatile, capricious narcissist, and that starts to happen multiple times, you have a tough decision to make.
Do you continue to work for said person, and risk zeroing your credibility? Or do you move on?
These are not easy decisions to make. People have mortgages to pay and families to raise. However, when history is written, enablers will not be venerated.


Today’s quick thought

As we watch the slowly unfolding spectacle of a clueless narcissist attempting to occupy the job of President of the United States, there is an uncomfortable reality that we have to confront as a nation.
We tend to tolerate, and in some cases, enthusiastically embrace people who, in many respects, behave like assholes.
In business, politics, and athletics, and showbusiness, it is easy to find examples of top practitioners who, while respected and revered for their achievements, were defective (in some cases horribly defective) as people. Some of them were weapons-grade assholes.
Adding to the problem in the USA is the fascination with celebrity. When showbiz people regularly run and get elected to political office, that tells me something about how easily voters can be persuaded to support celebrities when they try their hand at politics.
Donald Trump is not some one-off outlier. He is merely the latest in a long line of celebrities to try his hand at being elected to political office.
There is a conceited assumption driving many successful people that they can be successful at Anything they turn their attention to. They believe it, those around them validate that belief, but the ultimate validation is if they get elected to office.
We are complicit in all of this at several levels.
Firstly, we allow assholes to rise to positions of power. Very rarely is an asshole told to STFU and learn to treat people better on the way up. Instead rationalizations abound like “he may be an asshole but he gets shit done”. We make excuses, and by doing so we enable the behavior.
Secondly, we venerate the assholes at the top as “Stars”, even while understanding partially that they are deeply flawed people. It is deemed to be impolite to point out the asshole tendency. At least until the person topples from grace, at which time it is like feeding time at the shark tank, and suddenly they are torn to pieces.
Thirdly, we cement the veneration by accepting blithely that the part-time celebrity with asshole tendencies can do Anything. When Ross Perot tried to run for President in 1992, hardly anybody had the bravery to point out that a country is not like a business, only bigger, which was the conceit driving Perot. He thought that he could run USA Inc. just like EDS. (He would have been severely disappointed).


Arguments about condemnations miss the point

There has been a lot of Light Heat and Sound expended over the last 2 days over whether Donald Trump did or did not adequately condemn the events in Charlottesville.
Whatever you think about what Trump did or did not say (I happen to believe that on this topic, as with many other topics involving his extreme fringe supporters, Trump behaved like a duplicitous shitweasel), the discussions miss the point.
In these kinds of situations, most people remember only the initial event or statement. Any subsequent modification gets a fraction of the publicity and attention. This is the origin of the famous quotation that a lie will be halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on.
Politicians know this of course, which is why authoritarian shitweasels routinely utter nonsensically inflammatory statements in public. When challenged on them, they first “double down”, repeating the original statement, perhaps in a slightly different form, while professing surprise that it should be at all contentious. If that fails to damp down outrage, their next tactic is either to issue a Notpology, or to qualify the original statement in some way to address the outrage.
both the Notpology and the qualification are not aimed at the politician’s core supporters, who tend to remember the original statement anyway, and will regard the later weasel words as window-dressing for snowflakes who Cannot Handle The Truth. (One also sees the usual whining about “political correctness fascism” or similar).
So, circling back round to Donald Trump, his original weaselling equivocation is now firmly etched in history. There is no real point in anybody demanding that he change his position, since even if he does, most people will only remember the original statement


So what will the NFL teams do now?

So, after a currently unanimous decision by all 32 NFL teams to not employ Colin Kaepernick because he sat or kneeled for the National Anthem, despite the fact that numerous other players also sat or kneeled that season, what do we have here?
Three more prominent players all declining to stand for the National Anthem.
I don’t think I will be holding my breath until the teams of the players suspend or sit them for this action. That is probably not allowed under the CBA, especially since SCOTUS has ruled that nobody can be forced to stand for the National Anthem.
However, their employing teams could terminate their contracts to put them into the same place as Colin Kaepernick.
They won’t do that. Marshawn Lynch is the Oakland Raiders’ local talisman, the local boy made good, returning to this hometown, where the Raiders are playing out two seasons before relocating to Las Vegas. The other players are articulate team leaders. Their teams are going to do somewhere between diddly and squat.
Which leaves us with the scenario where the originator of the protests is kicking his heels waiting for a job offer, despite having taken one team to the Superbowl.
The NFL teams, collectively, do not seem to know the First Law Of Holes.


Incoherence in argument

In the past 24 hours I have observed the following on social media:

1. Different commenters describing the opposition by IBM to the Texas “bathroom bill” as “political communism” and “fascism”.
2. A commenter on LInkedIn declaring that the campaign to force BenchMark Capital to divest their investment in Uber (following the scandals that led to the departure of the previous CEO Travis Kalanick) is the revenge of “the PC Lib stranglehold”
3. An assertion that I am “biased” because I posted a couple of rather pointed messages to Facebook about the demonstration in Charlottesville (which, I have to remind readers, featured a drive-at-a-crowd murder by a man who seems to have been on the same side as the original demonstrators).

(1( and (2) are excellent examples of attempted argument by cutting and pasting slogans. This is about on a par with attempting to argue using memes, which for some reason people seem to think is an effective method of persuasion on social media.
Here’s the problem. Cutting and pasting slogans and memes is not making an argument. It simply demonstrates that the commenter can cut and paste. It is analagous to plagiarizing content for your high school essay and expecting the teacher to give you a good grade. Most teachers, if the determine that the content is cut and pasted, will give a failing grade, because absolutely no original thought went into the process. Ditto arguing in slogans and memes. That’s not your voice. It’s the voice of a sloganeer, who in all probability did not have a cogent argument in the first place, hence they used slogans. I cannot take this form of communication seriously. it is fundamentally lazy and unserious. It also tends to show that the commenter is confused or incoherent, as in calling IBM “communist” and “fascist” simultaneously.
3 is interesting. So, I am biased.
We all have biases. This is not revelatory, nor is it an argument.
On one level it is a statement of the obvious. On another level, however, it is a form of indirect speech. It is an attempt at a shut-down of the conversation, as in “I am not taking you seriously because you are biased”. It is, in some respects, a form of the ad hominem fallacy.
If somebody wants to be taken seriously in discussion, they need to stay away from rhetorical tricks like this one, and, you know, construct an argunent that contains a proposition for which they offer evidence.


The Excited States of America – beware persecution from all points

A collection of nativists and racists, some of them wearing Nazi-themed clothing items, have just demonstrated in Charlottesville VA.
A guy driving a car also murdered a counter-demonstrator, and injured a number of other people.
All of us who dislike authoritarianism and racism are pissed off. These events tell us a lot about the pathology of many US citizens, and it is not a pretty pathology.
Being pissed off is OK.
What is not OK is for people opposed to the nativists and racists to try organizing the same persecution against them for their beliefs that they would probably attempt in a heartbeat if they were allowed to. That would be Un-American, and would also be descending below their level.
It is not a crime to be a racist or a fascist, or a Sovereign Citizen, or a Marxist, or an anarchist, or a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Everybody is entitled to their views, no matter how weird, wacky, unpleasant or repugnant, and they are also entitled to express them.
Whether they get to express those views without consequences depends on time, place and context. The First Amendment mostly only applies to government bodies, so if, for example, an employer in an “at will” state discovers that one of their employees was wearing Nazi regalia and yelling slogans, and they decide to fire that employee, they can probably do that. Whether it is a reasonable action may become a matter of debate. Personally I am against punitive actions against individuals based merely on constitutionally protected actions, since it tends to convert the individuals into martyrs, and can lend their actions a gravitas and credibility that they would not otherwise attain.
If these racists and nativists start to actively organize to subvert the democratic process, or start engaging in violent or illegal acts, then I hope that law enforcement throws the book at them. I hold the same opinion about Antifa and other anarchist organizations. Until they do engage in illegal acts, however, we need to combat their ideas and proposals peacefully, and not start to engage in petty harrassment and persecution.


Dear supporters of Donald Trump, time to either speak up or zero your credibility

One of the characteristics of fascists is their contempt for democratic processes and institutions. They regard their party and leaders as the only legitimate group capable of governing, and the opposition are demonized and derided as unpatriotic and subversive.
They also, sooner or later, attempt to subvert and destroy the democratic process, usually by the tactic of claiming that the process is illegitimate because it is biased or rigged against them. Their reaction to suggestions that Donald Trump may have committed enough malfeasance to justify his removal from office (using the checks and balances in the Constitution and the legal system) is instructive, and backs up my conclusion that their worldview is profoundly contemptuous of democratic process and norms.
This pathology is alive and well amongst many of those partisans who supported Donald Trump in 2016, and Trump’s active and passive enablers in the Republican Party. There are also numerous supporters of that worldview in the media and on the internet.
JJ MacNab’s tweet summarizes the pathology on display this weekend quite well.

As far as I am concerned, we are reaching the point where the people who supported Donald Trump in 2016 have a fundamental decision to make. Whether they like it, or even want to accept it, they were enabling the pathology that we see surfacing in Charlottesville this weekend when they voted for Trump in 2016. Trump, throughout his campaign, issued both subtle and unsubtle messages to nativists and fascists that he was sympathetic to their worldview. He has populated his ranks of advisors with nativists and fascist sympathizers.
The people who voted for Donald Trump can claim that they didn’t know what they were going to get. They damn well should know now.
Trump voters have to decide whether they want to speak up against the sort of racist, fascist groups who are marching today, or keep quiet. If they speak up, they may well be forgiven and gain back credibility. if they keep quiet, their credibility simply leaches away, like water in dry soil.


Doubt and caveats and their role in trust building

A number of years ago, I was fired off a consulting gig.
Anybody who is a consultant knows that this is always a possibility. Consultants are hired guns, and can be un-hired, sometimes on a whim.
I tend to think that, to use an old sports coach joke, there are two types of consultants; those who have been fired, and those who will be fired.
The manner in which I was fired from this assignment (no, I did not get fired from my employer – the client simply rejected me) was a story in itself, mainly because of the bizarre way in which it was communicated.
However, one of the reasons that was given to me was that I was “too non-committal”. Apparently this was because, when asked if my team could do something that had not been previously agreed, I would say “let me evaluate that and I will get back to you”. To me, this was commonsense. I had a full plate of transition for a Testing tower. If I had said Yes to everything, I would have been an integrity-challenged fool.
The problem was that many of the people working on this transition from in-house IT to a service provider (my employer) were from India, and their cultural instinct was to say Yes to anything they were asked to do. So, the client would go to another group, and ask “Can you do X?” and the Indian delivery teams would say “yes of course”. Then they would go away and try to work out exactly what it was they had said Yes to (I kid you not. Myself and a work colleague actually overheard them around a coffee machine trying to decide what they had just said Yes to after one meeting. Amusing and frightening at the same time).
So, according to the client, I was not helpful, because I was non-committal.
I was reminded of this when reading this essay about how doubt build trust. To me, the basic idea is somewhat obvious. Especially when you consider the historical contempt that people profess to hold for “yes men”. However, many people say Yes to loaded or leading questions when they should demur or ask for time to reflect. I routinely say “let me think about that for a moment” when asked questions. If people think that makes me slow, or dim-witted, well, I guess they can think that while I go on my merry way.

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