Supreme Court Musings Post Judge Kennedy’s Retirement

June 27th, 2018

I’m amused that we’re living to see a day in which a Reagan appointee’s retirement is lamented by even the left. We live in interesting times no matter what one’s political position is!

It will be interesting to see Trump’s next SCOTUS nomination and how the Senate will handle it.  The nuclear option is not the most politically popular way to get things done especially before an election. Albeit, I bet the democrats would have done it with Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland had they had a simple majority. Unfortunately for them, the 114th Congress was controlled by Republicans in both houses.

That being said, the average voter doesn’t even understand what the nuclear option is, to then even understand why it’s not politically popular (which is because it’s a loophole in Senate rules and undermines the democratic order of the Senate).  So I’m left wondering if Trump and the Republicans will scramble to confirm the next appointee while their simple majority is still guaranteed.

Prepare for a conservative SCOTUS for the next 40-50 years all other things being equal. Prepare for an ultra-conservative SCOTUS if Republicans retain their senate majority under Trump and Ruth Ginsburg dies (which is an increasing possibility given her health).  With the way things are going, I wouldn’t be surprised if abortion and gay marriage rulings are overturned (or severely stripped) when one of the attorney generals of any bible belt state inevitably and opportunistically appeals a pertinent case all the way up to a (now-friendly) SCOTUS.

Addendum: After writing this blog post,  I got in touch with my Constitutional Law professor to share it with him.  Here were his bold (but well-informed) predictions: “Gay marriage is safe, abortion will be overturned, the nuclear option will get used, and there will be five conservatives dominating the Court at least until Thomas leaves, which will be a long wait.

The Problems With America Today: (1) The Blurred Lines Between Jest and Insanity; and (2) The Rise of Unhinged Political Correctness

June 12th, 2018

As a moderate/centrist,  I endorse neither purely liberal nor purely conservative ideals.  Our diverse America is a melting pot of leftists, rightists, and in-betweeners, but I think–or I wish–that we would be able to agree on an objectively sound, fundamental framework upon which society may operate.  Such a framework should promote healthy discourse and mutual respect, irrespective of whether the context involves differing viewpoints or controversial jest.

Today, a Facebook acquaintance–let’s call them “L”–posted a tragic video where an orangutan is clearly seen fighting off a bulldozer that is destroying its habitat.  No rational person would deny this to be true or question why it is tragic.  While the methodology that we might utilize to resolve this problem may vary depending on whether we employ a conservative or liberal approach or a compromise of the two, we can all agree that what is happening to this animal and its habitat is a problem.  Below, we see the Facebook interactions between L, L’s friend C, and myself (the jester).  These are three separate images, arranged chronologically from left to right:

(Keep in mind that I know L to have graduated from a prestigious school.  I personally met L at one point in my life, and have had sufficient interaction with L to know that  L is intelligent.  We will give C the benefit of the doubt by virtue of C’s association with L, and assume the same of C.)

Note that, at the outset, L and C agree–as rational people would–that the video is heartbreaking.  That’s where I come in with my joke:  I suggest to L and C that the whole thing is a misunderstanding, and that humans are using the bulldozer to help the monkey get down from the tree.  I present the ludicrous argument that the orangutan is “high-fiving” the heroic bulldozer to show its gratefulness for being rescued.

Arguably, some may find that joke to be in poor taste.  On the other hand, others may detect its blatant sarcasm and interpret it as social commentary.  The latter is what I was going for.  Apparently, there is a third way to interpret my comment: Rather than treating the comment as a joke or as satirical work, some may interpret it to be a truthful statement of my honest beliefs.  Clearly, given C and L’s critical responses, I did not get my point across to them.  In their defense, text-based communication can be confusing because there are no physical cues from which we can ascertain sarcasm. To come to their defense even further, C and L may have witnessed so much stupidity from others that they truly thought I literally believed that the bulldozer was helping the orangutan.

Still, there are two problems with this result:

  1. It doesn’t matter if L or C are intelligent.  A comment, no matter how ludicrous, has clearly triggered them.  I call this the “Trigger Problem.”  Now, two people is a minuscule sample size, but I have experienced countless analogous interactions in my life to believe that the Trigger Problem is real and prevalent.  The Trigger Problem will help to explain the meaning behind the first part of the title of this blog post, “The Blurred Lines Between Jest and Insanity.”
  2. While the “L’s” of the world will try to be constructive about how they respond after being triggered, the “C’s” of the world will immediately and mercilessly attack the person who triggered them.  I call this “Merciless Bashing.”  Again, L and C constitute an unreliable sample size, but for all my intents and purposes, their behavior suffices to mirror what I see time and time again in broader society: the alignment of triggered constructive-criticizers (e.g. L) with the triggered merciless-bashers (e.g. C).   The concept of Merciless Bashing will help to explain the meaning behind the second part of the title of this blog post, “The Rise of Unhinged Political Correctness.”

I. The Trigger Problem and the Blurred Lines Between Jest and Insanity

C is upset.  C rips into to my comment by questioning the presence of the bulldozer, by highlighting that the orangutan was “slapping,” not “high fiving” it, and to point out that what I am saying is the “misunderstanding.”  C is a victim of the Trigger Problem, because C dismisses any possibility that I might be joking.

L is likewise disappointed, but more forgiving.  L states that I am only “seeing what I want to see,” and that I am oblivious to the sole utilitarian function that bulldozers serve.  Ironically, L closes by alleging that I have “missed the whole point by a mile.”  L too, is a victim of the Trigger Problem, because L similarly dismisses any possibility that I might be joking.

The Trigger Problem is very real.  As a society, we have been so set against one another–either by external forces or by domestic turmoil–that we are quick to accept the sincerity of a third person’s assertions even if we believe those assertions to be meritless.  In other words, while we might find someone’s opinion to be preposterous, we do not doubt that it is still their genuine opinion EVEN IF, in reality, it is actually a subversive statement rather than their genuine opinion.  Simply stated again, we become so “Triggered” that we immediately jump to the ramifications of an adverse opinion (by reacting to it) rather than investigating the underlying motivations of the said adverse opinion.  Case in point: L and C never for a second considered that my comment was meant in jest.

Of course, one would HOPE that a perpetrator’s motivation would be benign–that they would be fueled by such things as jest, or even trolling, rather than nefarious intent to subvert.  But what we hope for is not necessarily an accurate reflection of reality.  We must be pragmatic about the motivations of perpetrators–something that both C and L fail to do, and something that I worry American society as a whole is failing to do.

The takeaway is that the Trigger Problem fosters division and unrest between the American people.  When the lines between jest and insanity become so blurred that we cannot differentiate between a joke and an insane remark, we attack one another rather than engaging in intellectual, civil, discourse.  In the context of ongoing foreign interference in American politics, how vulnerable does our nation become when we are so susceptible to being Triggered that we forget to question the motivations behind those doing the Triggering?  When you reflect on this question, consider Aleksandr Dugin’s book Foundations of Geopolitics — and if you did click that link, scroll down to this relevant bit:

In the United States: Russia should use its special services within the borders of the United States to fuel instability and separatism, for instance, provoke “Afro-American racists.” Russia should “introduce geopolitical disorder into internal American activity, encouraging all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes in the U.S. It would also make sense simultaneously to support isolationist tendencies in American politics.”

II. Merciless Bashing and the Rise of Unhinged Political Correctness

Above, I refer to L as a “constructive-criticizer.”  By that, I mean that after L has been Triggered, L responds constructively.  In a way, L has given me the benefit of the doubt.  L actually believes that I am being sincere.  L believes that I truly believe that the bulldozer is “trying to help the orangutan get down.”  L’s criticism of me is constructive because, despite clearly being shaken by my ridiculousness, L maintains their composure and tries to reason with me.

Further down in the conversation, L tries to reason with me by deferring to my own claims about God and logically bringing them back into harmony with L’s point of view.  I admire L for this, and I wish that, even when falling victim to the Trigger Problem, triggered individuals would redeem themselves by reacting constructively and rationally as L here did.  For that reason, L is actually not illustrative of the “Merciless Bashing” which has given rise to unhinged political correctness (I will talk about this concept further below).  Still, as I mentioned above, what is alarming is the alignment of triggered constructive-criticizers (e.g. L) with the triggered merciless-bashers (e.g. C).  That is, L and C react to me in unison.  While L’s reaction is more constructive, it does not conflict with C’s more hostile position to the extent that L does not second guess C. While L does not openly endorse C’s position, L’s commentary only subtly contradicts C’s position; moreover, in the end, even L unforgivingly points out that L believes me to be “brainwashed.”

Let’s talk about C and why C is perfectly exemplary of a Merciless Basher.  I have stated above that L’s commentary subtly contradicts C’s position.  This is because L actually believes that I believe the monkey was “high-fiving” the bulldozer.  On the other hand, while C, like L, fails to realize that I am joking, C outright mercilessly bashes me when C states: “If I ever need an attorney to defend me when I’m clearly in the wrong… Robert Rafii is the man that will turn the blame of my wrong doings onto my victim.”  I do give credit to C for clicking on my name and investigating my Facebook profile enough to ascertain that I am an attorney.  (C and I are not Facebook friends, and I do not personally know C.  C’s participation in the entire exchange is made possible by virtue of being a mutual acquaintance of L and I.)

Arguably, and noting that I expressed concern about America’s vulnerability to foreign interference, C’s reaction is more effective in the context of detecting and eradicating attempts of subversion.  Still, C must dance a fine line between investigating my motivation versus mercilessly bashing me.  Ultimately, C fails to recognize that, at best, my “benevolent bulldozer” statement was satirical, and that at worst, it could be considered trolling.  Instead, C rips into my character and creates division between us by suggesting that I am a shady lawyer.  (Again, and as an aside, note that L contributes to the problem by not acknowledging that C should not be so merciless.  I do believe that L genuinely thinks I am sincere in my assertion that the bulldozer is benevolent.  Yet, L does nothing to scold C when C attacks my sincerity.  Through omission, the constructively-critical L is still in alignment with C the merciless-basher.)

Merciless bashing restrains society to the point of encouraging political correctness.  If enough people become so fearful that they will be attacked for voicing their (popular or unpopular) opinions, society will move towards becoming more politically correct (“PC”).  When “PC Culture” becomes rampant, then unfunny “comedians” like Hari Kondabolu gain platforms that they do not deserve, and society will be distracted from real, actual problems that divide us.  While I don’t agree with all of PragerU’s videos, their Guide to Political Correctness drives home my point better than I ever could.

Now, let’s tie everything back to our Facebook exchange.  Toward the end, when I ask for permission to write a blog post about the exchange, C refuses on the grounds that I “toyed with their emotions for my own personal gain.”  C beautifully illustrates the problem with PC Culture: Political correctness places “feelings” and “emotions” above logic.  C goes on to boldly suggest that I “created a situation that was real to some” — that some would actually believe that I believe a monkey understands what it means to “high-five,” that my pastor says “the relationship between monkey and man is as sacred as the relationship between man and God,” and that “research has shown that clearing trees is great for the environment.”  C subconsciously roots for political correctness because it SAVES FACE for C.  Instead of acknowledging that I fooled C (like L bravely did when L stated that I “must be trolling”) C spares such embarrassment on the basis that C is a victim whose “emotions” were “toyed.”

Of course, the original Facebook exchange was never private.  Legally speaking, I don’t need anyone’s permission to write this blog post.  I felt that it would be polite to ask, and more importantly, it would be interesting to see how the C and L would respond.  In retrospect, I am glad I asked because C’s refusal (and C’s self-stated grounds for refusing) reinforces my argument about PC Culture.  Nevertheless, and only out of respect, I have obfuscated L and C’s identities.

In conclusion, I believe that the biggest problems facing America today are (1) its vulnerability to subversion on the grounds that the lines between jest and insanity have been blurred, as well as (2) America’s vulnerability to rampant, unhinged political correctness.  The long-term political and economic implications of this dire duality shakes the very foundation of our American democracy and threatens our place in the center stage of global relations.  While this writing does not offer a solution to the problems it outlines, perhaps highlighting the issues and making people aware of them would suffice to preclude our great society from falling into a trap that it has set for itself.  We can begin by being more open-minded about what “triggers” us and by contemplating on how far we are willing to go (or not go) to be “politically correct.”

A Genuine Friend

January 13th, 2018

Hello friend. I’m sorry I missed your call. I work close to 80 hours a week these days. It’s almost 10:30 PM as I write this and I’m still working. But going back to what I was saying before, I felt that you didn’t really message me yesterday to ask how I’m doing or to raise any points about the weather. I think you messaged me because you needed legal help, which is fine, but please also recognize that the last time I messaged you just to say hello, you said you were busy and house searching, but you made no effort to continue the conversation.

I have had this happen with many of my friends in the past. It really makes me sad. They will call me to say hello, and then under the guise of asking how I’m doing or telling me about some random, interesting current event, they’ll get to their main point: which is that they need me to work on their website, to solve their legal issues, to help them with an errand, and so on. It makes me feel like the only thing being sought is my assistance, and not my friendship.

I know you have asked me before to let you know if you owe me anything. You don’t owe me anything. I know you offered to pay and I said no. And by the way, my answer is still no. That’s what friends do. They help each other out. But please understand that it puts me in a difficult situation to continue providing legal advice when I feel that it is the only thing that keeps us in touch as of late. Every time we have talked, I feel like the conversation began because you had some legal situation going on.

Maybe I’m mistaken about all this. Or maybe I’m damaged from the fact that I lost a friend of 13 years because he did this to me and I finally decided to stop talking to him. He apologized once and I forgave him, but he did it again and again and again until I got fed up and I stopped talking to him again, but this time for good.

Maybe it wasn’t your intention to do what he did, and like I said maybe I’m sensitive to it now because it has happened so many times, but I really had to tell you how I feel. When I kept avoiding getting into the legal stuff you were asking me regarding your situation, I thought changing the subject would be a polite way to give you a hint that I was no longer comfortable talking about it, but I guess it didn’t really work seeing that you called me and left a message asking me for legal advice nevertheless.

Anyway, “friend,” I have no ill will toward you and I wish you well, but I had to let it out because sometimes I feel that my value to other people lays more in what I can offer them in the way of assistance than in the way of friendship.

The Price of World Peace

January 8th, 2018

FDR understood in a way Wilson never did that we lack the power to make the world conform to our abstract principals and rational schemes. Since American taxpayers will only spend so much money and American parents will only sacrifice so many daughters and sons, we have to prioritize, making the world a bit less ugly where we can and accommodating it where we must. Often we will have to enlist the help of nasty characters – like Stalin in the fight against Hitler or Iran in the struggle against al-Qaeda and the Taliban – to confront the gravest threats. Trying to remain morally pure will only permit greater evil.

But that need not mean that we stop talking in moral terms. FDR spoke eloquently of the world he hoped to see, even as he ruthlessly adapted himself to the one in which he actually lived. Perhaps that came naturally to a man who insisted – against all evidence – that he would one day walk again. We live in the world as it is and dream of the world that might one day be and consider ourselves fortunate to have reduced, even modestly, the distance between the two.

***

Regardless of how strong our military is, we cannot literally take on the entire world. Geopolitics sometimes requires us to look the other way to focus on more pressing priorities. Do we really like Turkey? Probably not. Erdogan keeps getting more and more dictatorial. But they also control a choke point for Russia’s only warm water port to reach the open seas so we need to be nice to them. Do we like Qatar? Not necessarily. They have slave labor. But we need to put military bases there, and the anti-ballistic missile radars we need to shoot down Iranian missiles aimed the Straight of Hormuz and the Saudi Arabian oil fields have to be located in Qatar due to geography. So we’re nice to them. Do we like Saudi Arabia? Nope. Many terrorists are funded by them. But they have oil, which we need (alongside the petrodollar), and they’re a counterweight to Iranian/Russian influence over the region. So we look the other way when they commit war crimes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Optimistic Nihilism

July 26th, 2017

This goes in line with my earlier blog post:

You can do it.

May 1st, 2017

20 Cognitive Biases That Screw Up Your Decisions

April 30th, 2017

4H0ELM3

  1. People hear one person mention a stock – they have no idea who the person is, their qualifications, their knowledge of the stock, and they’ve never heard of the stock until just now. They proceed to buy it, buy into every dip, and months later post “so…any news on ___”
  2. Well, for the 1 month I’ve been following this random stock, it twice dipped and recovered so I’ll buy into this 10% “dip” based on terrible company news
  3. r/wallstreetbets
  4. Applies to everyone but me
  5. “I’m thinking about maybe going long XXX, any thoughts” Person who is short XXX for no reason other than they think a 100 year old company will go bankrupt tomorrow because they had one customer service complaint “LOL YOU STUPID IDIOT, WHO WOULD GO LONG XXX?!?!!?”
  6. TA used by people that learned about it via one 3-minute Youtube video
  7. Not my fault you’re all wrong
  8. The outcome of every meme stock. “I’m down 10%, holding” “I’m down 30%, holding” “I’m down 90%, holding”
  9. 1,000 posts a day here with a variety of information and demonstrated successful strategies and you just continue to buy 3x ETFs
  10. Getting so upset with the performance of your 3x ETFs that you stop clicking other posts at all
  11. This is the most serious one that costs people here the most money. Just because you took a bet on something and it worked out doesn’t mean the reason you did it was anything more than a pure gamble and does not make a repeatable strategy
  12. Connected to #11 – thinking you’re the greatest trader in history when 7 out of 10 gambles go your way then plowing your whole life saving into the same “strategies”
  13. If I just buy everytime the stock drops 0.5% my basis will eventually be zero and I’ll have free money
  14. 3x ETFs
  15. Well, this is a semiconductor company that’s been around for decades and there’s zero reason to assume that it will suddenly break out beyond the market as a whole but they do have a new product that’s a direct competitor for existing product so its probably my moonshot
  16. XXX makes an amazing product that’s the cool new thing. I won’t focus on the fact they have $10 billion in debt and if they don’t sell more of that product than the world could ever possibly consume they’re going bankrupt by year end
  17. The market must always go up.
  18. Assuming that no one here could possibly be a stock pumper. People worry about r/hailcorporate and big uses selling their accounts to companies but surely if u/completerandothatsnewhere mentions a stock that trades two shares a day he has my best interest in mind
  19. Not realizing that people that posted here a lot and disappear are fairly likely to have lost all their money and be in some desperate situation somewhere which could easily happy to any of us
  20. The market must always go up.

The mother of all conspiracies.

April 15th, 2017

One of the most frightening theories is one of the simplest. There is no conspiracy, there is no illuminati or small group of hidden, super rich, mega powerful leaders. Everybody is just looking out for their own, and following their own beliefs.

All the travesties and pain in the world are because of that.

I think this is why so many people believe in conspiracy theories. They’re comforted by the idea that someone is in control and steering the ship, so to speak. Even if they have bad or evil intentions, at least someone is in charge.

The reality is that the world is rudderless. Even the “powerful” people can do relatively little. There’s nobody really in charge.

I’m not saying that powerful people don’t exert an enormous amount of influence or that certain groups don’t conspire in some ways to achieve ends that are less than good for mankind. All I’m saying is that, at the end of the day, they’re just people and they do the same stupid things we all do, and are subject to all our same flaws. They’re not superhuman.

My Thoughts on the 2016 Presidential Election

November 10th, 2016

The DNC rigged the primaries and gave us Hillary as the Democratic front-runner.  Many Bernie Sanders voters did not appreciate this.  Suffice to say, four million less people (democrats) came in to vote for Hillary than they did in 2008 for Obama: 69.5 million people voted for Obama in 2008. Despite the increase in population and the resulting increase in the number of voters over 8 years, Hillary still only got 66 million this year.

The Republican vote did not increase significantly from 2008 to 2012 to 2016.  While 63 million people voted for Trump this year,  McCain got 59,948,323 in 2008 and Romney got 60,933,504 in 2012.  So that’s just HOW horrible Clinton was: she couldn’t beat Trump even though many prominent Republican figures actually came out AGAINST him.  That, and the rigged way of the electoral college.

Gigapixels of Andromeda

November 4th, 2016