Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Elephant in the Mind

     In prior posts, we have discussed how to deal with and counter fake news articles, discussed why junk news matters, and even discussed one particular fake news website that was beginning to make a name for itself in the realm of fake click-bait news.  When we discussed why junk news matters, we spoke of mostly about the consequences of junk news that came from the world around us, and there were many.  There is the need to not get distracted by false issues.  The need for liberals, as a movement, to maintain the moral high ground when trying to persuade people in the middle of the political spectrum.  The fact that these junk news click-bait sites could actually be operated by the same groups that manufactured so much of the junk news on the right that Trump supporters gobbled up, and that we don’t want to let our anger and ignorance enrich them.  That the right’propagation of propaganda ensures that playing field is going to be uneven, so we have to be ten times better than they are for one tenth of the payoff.  Finally, we discussed how posting junk news makes one look like an idiot, and that we should not fight the GOP for the title of “The Party of Stupid.”  Today, we are going to take a look at some of the internal consequences of junk news, by which we mean junk news, click-bait news, and hyper-partisan news sources that spin the facts so hard that many consumers end up less informed than if they had read no news at all.

Related Content from This Series:

Hills Like White Elephants.

     We will begin with a thought experiment.  Try really, really hard to not think about a white elephant, ok?  Now, what are you thinking of?  This experiment shows the difficulty of trying to keep bad information out of the mind.  The brain has a difficult time processing a negation.  In other words, it cannot process “NOT white elephant” until it first processes “white elephant.”  We also tend to process the noun before the verb.  It is possible to process “NOT think” first and just empty the mind, but that is not how we think as a default.

     To really, truly, perform the task of not thinking about a pink elephant, one should actually clear the mind of all thoughts and keep it empty.  That is achievable if you are a Buddhist monk with years of meditation practice or a movie hero on his quest to purify his mind and spirit before facing the villain in a final showdown.  For the rest of us, however, it is nearly impossible.  When it comes to junk news, the most reasonable solution is to take steps to keep it from getting into one’s mind to begin with.  That was a large focus of the Countering Fake News post.

     This sets us up for failure when confronted with junk news.  If you thought of a pink elephant or the GOP logo, then you were still thinking of an elephant.  That means that part of the information that you want to avoid still got in.  If you thought about anything that had a specific color or colors that stood out, then your brain was still focusing on the word “pink” in a response to avoid it.  Again, that would mean that the information to avoid still made it through your intellectual defenses.  With junk news, we first have to take all the information in, process what is and what is not important, and then try to dismiss the bad information. The brain doesn’t have a delete button, though, so that bad information may very well linger for decades.

     Some readers will immediately think this is censorship. Let’s clear this up. Censorship occurs when an authority, usually a government, prevents speech from occurring.  We do not advocate that anyone prevent junk news purveyors from spinning their tales of deceit.  We do, in contrast, strongly advocate for liberals to be effective when they engage in discussion on topics of national importance.  You must be well-informed in order to be effective, and junk news clouds the brain with bad information.  People who wish to be well informed and able to play a role in our national discourse keep that toxic junk out of their minds.  That is not censorship, it is merely effective strategy.

     Our view is that is incorrect to assume the national discourse is liberals trying to win over conservatives and vice versa.  What actually occurs is that liberals and conservatives are presenting arguments for the middle-of-the-road, or middling, voters to observe, and they decide from there.  We have argued this here and here, also.  If middling folk see conservatives spewing out falsehoods 38% of the time and liberals doing so 19% 1,i of the time, even though the liberals are demonstrably more fact-based, it just becomes a tangled and fermenting pile of bullshit ii, in the technical sense 2.  The middling voter, at that point, is going to be too confused by all the inaccuracies to reach any conclusion and may decide that it is not worth the effort to dig through that pile of bullshit (in the technical sense) in an attempt to find an undigested kernel of truth.  That leaves the middling voter with 3 options.

     The first option is that they might vote liberal because they can see that liberals are a little less horrible than conservatives.  Two, they may get annoyed or angry at all the fallacious statements.  At that point, they may see that the anger they feel identifies with the with the anger that the right has made its brand.  If they make a gut level connection, then they are likely to believe that their rational interests also align with conservatives and they vote conservative.  Third, they may say that both sides are full of lies, disengage from the national discourse, and not vote.  For sake of argument, let's assume that those middling voters split evenly among those 3 options.  That is 2/3 of the undecided voters that we lose by using false facts.  Given the number of eligible voters that do not vote, the number may be higher than that.  Liberals generally have a much stronger and realistic set of policies.  We cannot afford to keep losing because we are infected with false facts.

Limited resources.

     Beyond the problems of trying to sift kernels of truth from the chaff of junk news, there is also the issue of time.  We only have a limited amount of it.  If we want to be part of the national discourse that helps to shape our nation, then we only have a limited time to do so.  If we are forced to fact-check our own minds to know if what we want to assert is true, then that is time wasted.  As we discuss in Countering Fake News iii, it is legitimate to question the veracity of an assertion and ask for evidence.  It’s also legitimate to reject the information when it comes from a disreputable source and demand better evidence.  People don't listen to the boy who cries wolf.  All of those alternatives represent time wasted.  Of course, the very time spent engaging in junk news sources is itself a waste of time because it does not take us toward our goal of furthering our vision for a better society.

     If you make arguments 3 and try to back them up with junk news, a few things are likely to happen that waste your time.  First, people can demand more evidence or evidence from more credible sources.  This is much less likely to happen if you get your information from reliable sources to begin with and if you work to build a reputation for credibility.  So you will spend more time trying to back up your sources.  Second, if you come back with evidence from a junk news source, then you lose credibility and, even if you eventually have a good source to cite, others less likely to listen because you have broken your own credibility.  That makes all the time you spend trying to persuade others a waste.  Third, people may just write you off as the boy who cried wolf and not listen to anything you have to say.  What is the point in even trying to keep up with current events and engage in debate if people won’t believe you?  That’s not the worst of the possible consequences, however, because people easily overgeneralize.

     Junk news doesn’t only make you look like an idiot.  When we discuss current events and politics, we are taking part in the national discourse.  Whether we want to or not, we will represent the entire side we are arguing to support.  When the middling voter encounters us, we need to represent our side the best we can.  Middling voters will hear what many people from both sides have to say.  If they see that there is a significant amount of junk coming from a majority of people on each side, you are back in the 3 choice situation above.  Let’s look at a hypothetical example:

     Tom has 10 conservative and 10 liberal friends.  Eight of his conservative friends and 4 of his liberal friends repeat junk news and make demonstrably false claims.  That’s a majority of his politically inclined friends, 12 out of 20, that speak so much nonsense that he will have a tough time knowing who to believe without lots and lots of fact checking.  Even though the numbers are significantly different, there is so much static that even the truth sounds dissonant and flat.  It’s not fair to the majority of liberals that aren’t spewing this junk, but they get placed into the same category of untrustworthy partisans as the rest and Tom is put in the 3-choice scenario above.

     Now, let’s say that we liberals take responsibility for our side and push back against junk liberal news within our group, and we also openly call out people from our groups spouting that garbage.  Suddenly, Tom only has 3 liberal friends that repeat junk news because we discourage it, and a few of his other liberal friends will caution Tom not to listen to 1 of those fools. Now, the numbers are 8 conservative spouting junk and only 2 liberals.  He knows also to disregard the 2 remaining liberals who repeat the same junk as the 1 he was warned to disregard by his other liberal friends, so, in effect, the numbers are perhaps closer to 8 to 1.  (Still not great but a definite improvement.)  At that point, it becomes much easier to for Tom to sort truth from fiction.  Which side, in the aggregate, will have the reputation for credibility?  Which side is likely to be more persuasive?

     When a person takes in and repeats junk news, they don’t merely waste their own time.  They also force everyone else on their side to engage in extra effort to persuade those middling voters.  What’s worse is that it will take multiple times more effort to persuade them after they have been exposed to even a few people that repeat junk news.  People who read junk news are doing more than wasting their time, they are wasting the time of other people from the group who have to make up for the damage they have done.  They are actively hurting the cause that the group is advocating for.  Those people would be better off spending their time on a hobby or watching a soap opera because they are doing more harm than good.

Resistance fatigue.

     Junk news sites typically use much more extreme and emotionally loaded language than MSM and other credible news sites.  There is a reason for that.  Most of us know the old maxim of the news business – if it bleeds it leads.  Years ago Jon Stewart said, correctly we believe, that the primary bias of all the news is sensationalism.  If a story can get you emotionally involved, you are more likely to remain engaged.  That means they can make more money from their advertising.

     Many online sources get paid for advertising too, mostly by having people click on ads.  The more emotionally triggered they make you, the more likely you are to read that story.  The longer you are on their site, the more likely it becomes that you will click on an ad, even if by mistake.  There is also a measure called the bounce rate, which is the percentage of people that only view a single page and then leave.  Junk news writers know that if they get you emotionally riled up, then it is easier to get you to click on another headline.  This happens even if they write headlines that are irrelevant to the article and even if their headlines are disproven by the content within the article.  This is why you often see headlines written with incredibly extreme language.  When their bounce rate decreases, i.e. when they get people to look at multiple pages on a single visit to the site, that helps increase the amount of revenue they get.

     This means that these sites intend to emotionally manipulate people just to increase their revenue.  Emotional manipulation is what Fox News does to its viewers and has been part of their strategy to keep their incredibly loyal fan base.  Part of the problem, though, is that people become accustomed to a certain level of heightened emotional and adrenal states, and then need more to get the next fix.  Fox News has marched steadily over the years to become increasingly partisan and extreme in part to maintain that viewer base.  It is only worsening the culture wars.

     We may actually be experiencing the greatest threat to our democratic republican form of government since the Civil War.  So far, our institutions have responded admirably to this threat.  We have had millions of citizens marching in protest in contrast to the dozens to hundreds that show up to support Trump.  Lawyers also responded immediately to Trump’s first failed Muslim ban to get it knocked down repeatedly.  Courts have taken note of Trump’s bigoted statements and used that as part of their reasoning to slap down his unconstitutional executive orders.  Regulatory agents have created alt-agency Twitter accounts to push back against his lies and extremism.  Members of Congress are also doing their part to resist.  This doesn’t happen in many other parts of the world.  As painful as it is, it is also a brilliant display of how strong and resilient our form of government actually is.

     Right now, this is culture war is still a cold war.  In order to win, however, it will require all of us to remain engaged and resisting.  If our numbers shrink very low, then we will just be run over by the extremist agenda of the Republicans.  Between where we are now and the very low point is a space where some on the right may contemplate physical violence to silence the rest of us to a point where their agenda can be railroaded through.  If we are to prevent that, then we need all of us to remain engaged.  This is why we need to remain mindful of resistance fatigue.

     Resistance fatigue is the feeling of getting worn out because we feel like have to be ready for some new attack all the time.  We cannot be on high alert 100% of the time.  Junk news intentionally manipulates and spikes our emotions to put us in a heightened state of readiness.  That small adrenalin dump that we experience when our anger is activated is a slightly pleasurable feeling, though.  That makes us want to engage in more of their junk news to chase after the good feeling, only to be frustrated with more bad news.  The end result is that we end up in a heightened emotional and heightened adrenal state for prolonged periods.  Our bodies are not built to remain constantly vigilant.  Eventually, we become worn out from the constant stress of hyper-vigilance and need a break.

     Instead of engaging in these sources that keep us hyper-vigilant, we can be strategically smart.  There will be slower news days when Trump doesn’t give top secret intelligence without permission from an ally to our primary world adversary or some other asinine action.  On those days, we should try to take a break.  We can ignore his tweets, read some positive news, read a book, take a walk, or any number of things to take care of ourselves.  We need this time to rejuvenate and maintain our resistance.  This is not just good self care, it’s good strategy.

     There’s one final point to consider about junk news.  We have seen an explosion in politically and hate motivated violence from conservatives 4 inspired by Trump, and, recently, a liberal even went extremist and returned fire at several Republican congressmen while they practiced for a charity baseball game.  At some point in the future, we need to come back together as a nation.  The only place for that to happen is in the reality based world.  If people on both sides get locked into their respective hyper-partisan, junk-news bubbles, then all we will do is continue shouting at each other until we begin shooting at each other.  If we are ever to get back to a more civil society, it has to be anchored to reality.  Junk news distorts our reality and prevents that civility.  The wider the gulf the longer the violence will continue, and many of those victims will be targeted because of their religion (or lack of it), their skin color, or who they love.  We cannot excuse this hate-motivated violence.  If we don’t stop the spread of this junk news, then we are contributing to that continued violence.

     We can neither wish Trump away nor hit a delete button to get bad information out of our brains.  Advocating for progressive causes is a group effort, and the misbehavior of one will be attributed to the group.  We cannot afford the wasted time and effort that junk news costs us all in this battle of ideas.  The stakes have gotten way too high, and people are being killed by people who have poisoned their own minds with this toxic rhetoric.  If we are going to prevail, we need all hands on deck and we cannot afford to waste our intellectual or emotional reserves on junk news any longer.

Thank you for reading.  Please feel free to leave comments below.  You can also share with the buttons below, or, if you want to get the latest posts right away, you can click on the "Follow" button at the top right of this page.

If you need a break from all the nastiness and junk news, or you just need a laugh, you can check out some of our satire here:

If you're interested in learning how liberals can get better at messaging to win the war of ideas, check out the 4 part series starting with:

1As we noted in prior articles, liberals don’t get to celebrate that their side has only half the fake news when it still accounts for nearly one out of five articles published by some sites.
2Bullshit here comes from a paper by Harry Frankfurt titled “On Bullshit.” He defines bullshit not as a lie, but as a statement made without regard for the statement’s truth value. Sometimes BS statements are made in small talk as a way to test ideas or phrases, e.g. when guys “shoot the breeze,” or “shoot the bull.” All too often, especially in politics, they are made to influence people. This type of bullshit is what we get from a con artist. ________________________
[Blank space is provided for the reader to instert their own reference to POTUS.]
3Argument as used here means that you try to persuade others to accept a conclusion based on evidence and not a shouting match.
4It might be more fair to say conservative sympathizers, but we aren’t going to split that hair here.
iiThe book “On Bullshit,” by Harry Frankfurt may be purchased here:

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Expert Business Intel Analyst Says Trump’s Saudi Deal Will Create Millions of Jobs - pt 2

This is part two of our interview with expert business intelligence analyst Mike Hickle.  Mr. Hickle sat down with us to explain why the nattering naybobs of negativism that claim Trump's deal with Saudi Arabia won't create very many jobs are wrong.  You can read part one of the interview by clicking this link.

DL: OK, so you were about to begin discussing the job creating effects from Trump's Saudi deal that will come from supporting the Saudi export of Wahabi Islam. What kind of jobs would those be - I mean they already make their own prayer bead and rugs don't they?  And would many Americans want those jobs anyway?

MH: Oh, it has nothing to do with making religious artifacts.  You see, support of the Saudi regime does no favors to the dissatisfied in Saudi Arabia who already see us as infidels.  In fact, this only makes it even more necessary for the Saudi royals to continue buying arms from the US.  Plus, the Saudi’s see the Shi’a Islam that is led most prominently by Iran as being existentially opposed to their Wahabi brand of Sunni Islam.  By propping up the Saudi regime with plenty of big weapons, they have no need to find a peaceful resolution to their theological differences.  So, military tensions will remain both within and without Saudi Arabia for the foreseeable future.  While this doesn’t create jobs, it does maintain them as well as a steady stream of profit for arms manufacturers.  Trump campaigned on jobs, so this is important.  And, hey, who doesn’t like a profitable US manufacturer?

     By keeping military tensions high in this unstable part of the world, Trump virtually guarantees that the US will be drawn into a fight in the Middle East.  This will be done, if for no other reason, to prevent Iran and Saudi Arabia from confronting each other in direct combat i, which could precipitate a global war.  Given that Islam is a global religion, if the two main factions began a holy war, it could easily draw the rest of the Muslim world into the fight.

Mr. Trump establishing rapport with the Saudi's ahead of his business negotiations by taking part in a local ceremony.

DL: So, how does this give us jobs?

MH: Well, the likely progression is that the jobs will begin from battling ISIS.

     Since the Saudis will be itching to use their new weapons against ISIS, but that could spark a third world war if they overstep.  That means the US will have to stay in the region to strike targets that are too politically sensitive for the Saudis to strike.  That means we can rely on the US going into another war in the middle east.  

     Now, Afghanistan i had over 100,000 troops and Iraq ii had over 160,000 troops deployed there at the height of the conflicts.  Since there is significant ISIS presence in both Iraq and Syria, it’s reasonable to assume that each country will require 100,000 troops to deal with ISIS.  Further, those are only Boots on the Ground numbers, and do not include an additional 100,000 military personnel in the region that provided support for the 2 wars iii. Since those military support jobs would likely go away if we pulled out of the region, it is fair to count them as newly created jobs by the president. There is another 300,000 jobs. Also, while military jobs are great, that doesn’t even include the contractors that will be hired.

DL: So, we are selling them weapons that we don’t want them to actually use, and will get into a war in their region to keep them from getting into a war and using the weapons that US arms manufacturers sell them? How does that make sense?

MH:  You are viewing this arms deal from a military and political science frame of reference. The business lobbyists that fund the GOP are looking at it from a business perspective.  They are creating jobs to manufacture products to sell to the middle east and simultaneously, in a stroke of foresight, also creating jobs to spread peace and freedom.  It will be quite a few peace and freedom jobs too, by the way.

     During the 2007 surge in Iraq, there were 160,000 military contractors iv of which about 12o,000 were Iraqi and another 10 – 20,000 were from other countries v. I’m sure that Mr. Trump will Put America First and double the number of US contractors from an average of 25,000 to about 50,000.  Also, that does not include an average of about 10,000 private armed security contractors vi, which were some of the best jobs available in Iraq.  And you can double those too because we will be delivering peace and freedom to Syria as well. Not only did they pay well, but those contractors really saved on expenses like legal fees because of the complete legal immunity they were granted by Paul Wolfowitz.  That pushes the number up to 370,000 military jobs before we even get to the jobs that will be created back in the USA.

DL: Didn’t the US already deliver peace and freedom to Iraq?

MH: Hey, when you have a great product, you have to expect repeat customers.  Speaking of customers, this will create a new set of customers back home as well.

DL: What do you mean by that?

MH:  Back home, for example, from every new surge in military operations, we can also expect a surge in employment. A Congressional Research Service report vii of the casualties from our military operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria between 2001 – 2015 shows that there were about 6,900 killed, 52,000 wounded, 177,000 diagnosed with PTSD, and 330,000 who had traumatic brain injuries. Forbes reported that there were over 1 million injuries back in 2013 from these military operations viii.  Do you realize how many jobs that will create?

     That will result in thousands of additional doctors, nurses, home health aides, mental health, and social workers that will be needed as a direct result of these peace and freedom deliveries that are a direct result of Trump’s Saudi deal.  Of course, since we don’t really fund mental health care and thousands of mentally ill people, including veterans, end up in prison due to mental illness, we can also expect hundreds of jobs to be created in prisons as well.

DL: Wait a minute, you said customers, but won’t these jobs be serving patients coming back from the war?

MH: Of course. We all know that a patient is just a fancy name for a healthcare customer.

DL: So, I guess Trump is really priming the pump for healthcare jobs then, right?

MH: There you go! Spoken like a GOP insider business intelligence analyst!

     I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention the economic boost from fallen freedom delivery personnel.  We won’t see many new jobs created, but it will increase both the workload and pay for everyone in the field: morticians, casket makers, grave diggers, etc.  We won’t count the funerary jobs because it will be under 10,000, but I thought that they did deserve an honorable mention.  These peace and freedom deliveries will provide plenty of new jobs back home.  I would ballpark an estimate of an additional 130,000 healthcare related jobs, including the new prison guards.  That brings us up to 500,000 new military and military-supporting jobs.”

DL: Yes, but isn’t Trump funding for the VA in his new budget proposal?

MH: Yes, and my sources within the Republican establishment say that is to allow the private sector to create cost efficiencies.

DL: So, 300,000 jobs to respond to climate change

MH: The Republican leaders are calling it weather patterns.

DL: Yes, but the climate is long term weather patterns.

MH: Well, they have a hard time being able to tell the difference between climate and weather.  Anyway, 300,000 weather jobs. . . . You were counting?

DL: Yes, 300,000 climate-weather jobs; 300,000 military jobs plus 70,000 extra civilian contractors when we officially go to war ISIS; and 130,000 new jobs taking care of all the wounded and killed soldiers when they return home.  Still, 800,000 is quite shy of a million, let alone the multiple millions Trump tweeted about.

MH: Oh, I haven’t mentioned all the equipment manufacturing and logistical support that will be required to support the war with ISIS.  That will require new rifles, uniforms, many tons of ammunition, new military vehicles and ships, and on and on. This will be a huge job creator.  We can ballpark that at 100,000 jobs, easily.

DL: OK, but that still only takes us to 200,000 new climate-related jobs and 700,000 new military related jobs for only 900,000 jobs.

MH: That’s because we haven’t fully discussed the export of Wahabi Islam. By artificially propping up the Saudi regime, we are, in fact subsidizing Wahabism. This is the extremist faction that has spawned all the Islamic fundamentalist terror groups throughout the world ix.  That includes the Muslim Brotherhood, the Taliban, Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, and more current iterations like ISIS.

DL: All of them?

MH: Yes, all of them.

     This violent version of Islam is now also dominant throughout the developing world.  Just as Wahabism was exported from Saudi Arabia to other parts of the world, that ideology is now being exported from places like Indonesia, with 257 million people, to the southern portion of the Philippines where they are attempting to set up a South Asian caliphate.  That influence is being seen throughout the region.  There are regular bombings in the south of Thailand (a long-time US ally) 1, where the majority of the population is Muslim and is being increasingly indoctrinated into Wahabism x.  It is influencing Malaysia’s government xi, which has seen a sharp turn toward Islamism xii in recent years 2. Once we put boots on the ground to battle ISIS, it will be heard as a call to arms throughout the Wahabi-dominated part of the Muslim world.

Photo of the current state of Saudi weapons technology.  This is why the Saudi deal is so important!

DL: That sounds bad.

MH: Not if you look at it in terms of job creation.  Because of the geographic size, we can project about 1 ½ times the military force needed to bring peace and freedom to Southeast Asia as peace and freedom delivery personnel.  That’s 900,000 additional jobs.

DL: OK. So, 300,000 jobs for sea level rise; 700,000 for the next war –

MH: Wait – Republican leaders will insist that we call these peace and freedom delivery jobs.

DL: Can we compromise and call them camouflage jobs?  You can tell your Republican informants that we will report them as peace and freedom delivery jobs camouflaged as military jobs?

MH: You and I can compromise, sure.  I’m pretty sure the Republicans in Washington will refuse to compromise, though.  And you can write the story however you want.  I’m just here to provide you facts and explanation that I have culled from my sources inside Washington.

DL: Fair enough.  So, 300,000 climate change jobs

MH: Um, the Republicans want to call them weather jobs.

DL: Well, if they can’t tell the difference between climate and weather, why should anyone care how people label it?

MH: Fair enough.  It’s their talking point, not mine.

DL: So, 30o,ooo climate jobs; 700,000 camouflage jobs in the middle east, and another 900,000 camouflage jobs in Southeast Asia.  That’s still only 1.8 million – well shy of the millions – plural, that were claimed.

MH: That’s because we haven’t fully looked at the global demand for peace and freedom around the world.  After the Middle East and Southeast Asia, we will also be forced to deliver peace and freedom to countries like Pakistan.  The US will also have to send large peacekeeping forces to nations like India as the Wahabi inspired terrorists take action against interests of the US and our allies around the world. So, that 700,000 can easily be tripled for the other wars that will be caused around the world, and those all come from the continuing support that leaders like Mr. Trump give to the Saudis.

That’s 300,000 weather jobs as temperatures rise; and then the peace and freedom delivery personnel jobs: 700,000 in the Middle East; 900,000 in Southeast Asia; and another 2.1 million in India and Pakistan.  That’s at least 3.7 million new jobs all from this one trade deal.  Say what you will, but that is a job creating engine running all 8 cylinders with the pedal to the floor.

DL: OK, you made your point.  There will be millions of jobs as a result of this deal.  So, besides all the people who are going to die, are there any real downsides?

MH: There is one slight downside.  While we are busy spending billions dealing with all the militant Wahabi terrorists, supporters of strongmen like Duterte in the Philippines see no ethical difference between an untested strongman like Trump and an old strongman like Putin.  So, Russia, having a track record to judge from, will easily peel away several of our allies and bring them into his orbit.  That’s actually a good thing though because it will free up some of our foreign aid budget to places like the Phillipines.  We can then redirect that money into the military to fight Wahabi terrorists.

DL: OK, but all those jobs are going to be created from catastrophes and wars that could easily be avoided.  Is it really fair to count these as new jobs when they are created an arguably immoral policy?

At this point, Mr. Hickle’s expression changed from one of disinterested extrapolation to a grim seriousness.  He finished the interview with these final words.

I was not contacted for this interview to pass judgment on the jobs created,” he said, “but only for a strategic business analysis of Trump’s statement that millions of jobs will be created from the Saudi deal.  Yes, most of these jobs will involve death and destruction and funneling massive amounts of our nation’s blood and treasure into unnecessary wars – no doubt about that.”

Are those the kind of jobs that American’s want? Do they reflect our values as a people?” Hickle wondered aloud. “Well, you may want to consult with an ethics specialist about that - or your congresspeople.  That is also a question that Americans need to seriously ask themselves.”

Thank you for reading this piece of satire.  If you would like to share, there are sharing buttons at the bottom of this post.  If you want to read the latest articles as they come out, there is a "Follow" button on the upper right side of this page.

1  This is based on reports that I have heard as an expat in Thailand for the last 3 years. I was a guest lecturer for a teacher’s seminar at a technical college in Yala 2 years ago. The violence is bad enough that I was told not to leave the hotel room at night. Our hosts gave us their personal phone numbers and said that they would drive to the hotel and drive us to the 7-11, less than 200 meters away, if we wanted anything. They emphasized this by saying they didn’t care if it was 1:00 AM, that we were still to call them and not walk ourselves. The violence is such a problem that they even told us initially that the college was located in the next district instead of Yala (it is very close to the district border) as a way of avoiding the violent stigma of the district.

2  The author can personally attest to this increasing fundamentalism. On a trip to Penang a few years ago, I personally witnessed a young man openly preaching jihad just outside a mall, and he had a few people listening to him. The force of extremism is growing.

Expert Business Intel Analyst Says Trump’s Saudi Deal Will Create Millions of Jobs

     Donald Trump recently tweeted that his trip to the middle east has “made and saved the USA many billions of dollars and millions of jobs.” The claim has been roundly criticized by media organizations. Politifact has rated the claim as False i. The Hill noted that “it wasn’t immediately clear to what the president was referring” ii since there were no announced trade deals at the NATO conference and the deal he struck in Suadi Arabia. Since it isn’t known what the president was referring to, it seems the truth-value of the statement could not be ascertained, and The Hill declined to declare it a falsehood.

     An analysis by The Washington Post iii, however, was not so kind.  The WaPo piece reported that arms maker Raytheon stated they could not guess at the number of jobs that would be created.  Similarly, Lockheed-Martin said only that the deal would “support” iv thousands of jobs and that Boeing stated it would merely “create or sustain” v jobs in both countries.  One intelligence analyst, however, disagrees with all of these fact checkers and reporters.  Mike Hickle is an expert business intelligence analyst with sources inside the GOP Leadership.

DL: So, all of those analyses are wrong?

MH: Not so much wrong as too narrow.   All of these reports really miss out on the big picture.  They are only looking at the few manufacturing jobs that will be created within America in the next business cycle but, when you look at the broader policy implications, the Saudi Arabia deal will have rippling job effects for years, perhaps even decades, beyond.”

     This deal will help to support the Saudi regime that has a brutal record of suppressing political dissent and the rights of women and other minorities.  It will, however, help them to keep their two main exports stable.  The first main export from Saudi Arabia that we’ll discuss is oil.  While this deal is billed as part of the Saudi’s efforts to diversify the kingdom’s economy, it will also have the effect of aiding state-sanctioned violence to suppress political dissent.  According to libertarian thinking, this state-sanctioned violence is itself a disruption of market forces that artificially keeps the price of oil lower.

     I can see you're confused, so let me expand this line of thought just a bit.  Imagine if the Saudi government did not have a massive police presence to quell dissent.  Not only might that mean that they might have to stop flogging people for having a beer vi, or perhaps wouldn't be able to stone as many gay people to death vii, but would have other consequences as well.  Without a heavy-handed government handing out arbitrary and brutal punishments, there would most likely be an uprise in political dissent that would challenge the monarchy. This challenge would cause the rest of the world to wonder if the supply of oil coming from Saudi Arabia will be stable during the political upheaval, and that uncertainty would cause the price of oil to jump significantly.  Having a large, well-equipped, and partly militarized police force prevents that unrest and keeps oil prices lower.  In the short-term, that keeps energy costs lower in the US and does help promote fossil-fuel sector dependent economic growth.

     Lower oil prices will support the fossil fuel industry and makes green energy alternatives slightly less competitive.  This will slow the global economy’s shift to green energy, and that will increase the effects of climate change.

DL: Wait, so you’re saying that climate change is . . . .

MH: Climate change is an underappreciated job-creation engine that is getting ready to rev up, thanks to Trump’s policies.

     Really, people don’t understand what a great economic opportunity sea level rise is.  FEMA estimates that nearly 24.6 million people live in census block groups that are in the 100-year floodplain xii. With 2.6 people per household xiii, and discounting 50% for people living in multi-unit apartments xiv, gives us 4.7 million homes that will have to be retrofitted for higher seas.  This alone will provide hundreds of thousands of jobs, but let’s be very conservative and call it 100,000 jobs in direct construction, and probably another 100,000 related jobs like making and selling building materials.  That starts us at 200,000 jobs.”

     Plus, we know that the longer one puts off cleaning up a mess, the greater the amount of cleanup that will be required.  So, by stalling the switch from fossil fuels, Trump is really just priming the pump for increased long-term job supply to remodel homes to deal with sea level rise.  I’m surprised that Republicans are not openly praising the job-creating leadership here, given that they have claimed that they will improve American job prospects for years now. We can expect a ‘priming effect’ of 10 – 50%, depending on how long we put off seriously addressing climate change. That’s somewhere between 20,000 – 100,000 jobs, but that’s very speculative at the moment so we won’t count it yet.

DL: Is that why he pulled out of the Paris Accord? I thought it was because he lost a handshake to French president Macronxv?

MH: Well, nobody knows why he pulled out for sure, but we do know that pulling out of Paris will be an additional blast to the face in the Trump economy.

DL: Ok, but that’s still only 200,000 jobs.

MH: But we haven’t discussed the extra jobs from rising global temperatures yet. The EPA has data that shows heat-related deaths have nearly doubled since the 1970’s xvi from about 0.75 to nearly 1.5 heat-related deaths per million now.

DL: First, that’s horribly sad to hear about the increase.  But,second, even doubling that number is still a tiny fraction of the number of people who die in any given year.  Third, how does that create jobs?

MH: Heat-related deaths are just a lead indicator of a robust job creation phenomenon.

DL: Huh?

MH: The fact that so many more people are dying from heat tells us that there are many other phenomena occurring too, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

DL: And those are good how?

MH: They show a new demand for products and services that our nation can supply.  For example, if people are getting sick because of the heat more often, then there will be an increased need for air conditioners.

DL: Yes, but that Carrier xvii is relocating most of its jobs to Mexico and is automating many others.  Plus, aren’t more than half of those jobs going to Mexico anyway?

MH: It’s only more than half if you include the jobs from the second Carrier factory that Trump couldn’t negotiate to keep open xviii.  Since he couldn’t negotiate that factory into keeping any jobs, the Republicans just don’t don’t count that factory.

DL: Isn’t that a kind of selective statistics like the Texas Sharpshooter that shot at a barn and then painted a bullseye around the area where most of the holes just happened to be?

MH: My sources in Congress say that is just a pessimistic outlook. They want to be positive and focus on jobs!  Speaking of jobs, phenomena like heat exhaustion will create demand for air conditioning, and those new air conditioning installations will have to be done by Americans.

Also, as temperatures rise, it will create increased demand for a variety of new products. With American lawns, for example, we can expect that people will need to purchase more hose and sprinklers.

DL: Yes, but most of those products are already made in China.

MH: Yes, but the retail workers and shelf stockers have to work in America!  Also, we will see demand for new products that will be necessary to deal with the heat.  For example, people will have to get rid of their current lawn mowers and upgrade to lawnmowers that have enclosed cabs with air conditioning.  Some people will even pay for services like having extra insulation added to their homes so that they can afford to run their air conditioning in the summer time.

DL: That all sounds expensive.

MH: That sounds like the hum of a finely tuned job-creating engine!  They predict an additional 100,000 manufacturing and construction jobs from the increased heat.

DL: So, if Republicans are basing job prospects on temperature rise, does that mean . . .

MH: It means that the job climate is just right in America!

DL: And the global climate?

MH: Meh, we have more important things to discuss, like Saudi Arabia’s other main export: Wahabi Islam. We are now up to 300,000 weather-related jobs, by the way.

Mr. Hickle's expert business analysis continues by clicking here on this link.

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xiv (Note: the 50% figure is a guess based on this data.)