Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The psychology of decision making

I am going to tell you a story. Actually, it is a story inside a story. It is an important story, one which may surprise you. A story you may find hard to believe.
If I have engendered any trust in those who read my blogs and posts, believe what you are going read and share this post.  I am trying to use what I have learned about human nature, specifically how flawed our decision making can be, to improve our country.  I will be referring to psycho/economic theories which won their creators a Nobel prize in economics in 2002.
Readers will recognize my surprise, shock, and agony over the results of the last election in the U.S.  I am hoping those who have followed me will share this story with as many as possible, so that eventually this may be read by the curious eyes of some non-liberals, non-democrats, who have a mind that has opened somewhat since they cast a vote for whatever reason, for 45.

How condensed can one make a story which two psychologists spent most of their lives to create? How much can it be stuffed into a short essay while suffusing it with comprehensibility and acceptance? I have to give it a go.

There are two main stories here. The first is how 45 got  elected. The short answer is that 45 ran an unusual campaign that told a story of our country that many  unsatisfied, perhaps undereducated, people liked to hear. They wanted to hear it. It was theatre. 45, did not care about winning or losing anything. He was free to fly. Free to lie. His campaign managers handed him a good story to tell which, at least then, fit the mood of the nation. Well, not the whole nation, but at least the targeted people and places which helped 45 win the electoral college.

People seem to have a hard time making choices. We all have built in flaws, maybe evolutionary paradigms, which affect the decisions or choices we make in strange ways. Playing into these decisions are many factors such as the odds of attempting to win or gain something of worth, or the odds of avoiding pain, or losing something we already value. Further, we need to know if the value of something we want is the same as that recalled from memory, experienced in the present,  or imagined it to be in the future?

People tend to be, and it seems to be a joke many openly accept about themselves, simply bad at math. Moreover, they, we, are bad at statistics and probabilities.
How can one make a good decision which involves the probability of a specific outcome, if one’s useful knowledge of probability is lacking?

45 had a documented history of making many bad business deals.  He has a reputation and record of scamming people out of their money. People could easily find out that he cheated on all his wives. He was not a good businessman. He  failed so many times at business, he couldn’t get loans in the United States. He has been involved in literally thousands of lawsuits. He publicly was heard demeaning women and bragging about how he could molest them at will. This and the closet of full of other ill fitting clothes, do not seem to make for a good presidential candidacy. What was the probability of success with that history?

But that is not the story he told.
He said he was the best businessman ever to exist. He could make deals no one else in the world could. He loved and cherished all women. He was the defender of the Haitians who found asylum in the U.S.  He was the greatest supporter of law and order in the country.  He was going to protect us from ISIS. He was going to show North Korea who was boss. A wall would be erected that easily would, not only put an end to illegal immigration, but stop all illegal drugs flooding into our country.  He simply was the best candidate to make our country great again. The wealthy heard this as making them richer. The poor heard Jesus, feeding them, clothing them, and protecting them from the cruel world.

This is the story 45 told. People misjudged the probability that voting for him would have a positive outcome for them.
The theory I mentioned earlier, relating to decision making, is that people do not choose between two things (or in this case, two candidates).  They, we, decide between two stories.

The second story is how people deal with terrible events like the accidental death of a loved one in a car accident? Or how does one deal with an election result gone completely awry? How does one deal with a tragedy? How could one undo this. What is the best narrative that one tells oneself during this inevitable period of mourning. In a accident, couldn’t one of the cars involved left home a minute later.  Couldn’t one of them have taken a different route. Maybe the driver was on his cell phone. Well, there is no way to legislate or educate undoing time and place, but cell phone use while driving?
People who drive while talking on the phone say it doesn’t affect their driving, but statistics say that they are impaired as if they are driving while at the legal limit of intoxication. Hmmm. How do people respond to how impaired they would be after having 3-4 drinks before getting behind the wheel? They say about 5%. Statistics say about 30%. People do not regularly make good decisions. To undo, or rather avoid accidents there has to be safer behavior behind the wheel.

How do we undo 45’s presidency? We could have been more  aware of Russian interference in the campaigns. Perhaps Comey on several occasions could have chosen not to have revealed information about ongoing investigations that resulted in basically nothing but alarming voters and changing the story about Clinton. The electoral college could have thrown its vote to the winner of the plurality of votes. Perhaps we shouldn’t have had the electoral college system. We mourn the destruction 45 has brought to our country, it’s culture and reputation. What can we do?

There is the story of predictable government, fair government, honest government, sane government. Government which unequivocally values all people,  unequivocally denounces hate and division.  Government that not only protects us, but supports us. Then there is a story how how important it is to register to vote or better yet have everyone of age automatically registered. Get a mail-in ballot to every voter or help people get to the polls to cast their ballots.

Tell a story of how important, how valuable, your vote is.
This year is the year saner heads can prevail, but only if our story is the more appealing, the more satisfying, more reality than evil, nasty fairy tale,  and more probable to deliver health, security and stability to every corner, community and city in our country.
Please share.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Tlit. The Deceiver

Tlit takes pride in being unpredictable.
Being unpredictable is not a strategy that serves the American People.
It is a default and excuse for an absence of broad based information and the lack of desire to learn ways to mold knowledge into reasonable speech and behavior.
It is a consequence of having both unstable and amorphous core beliefs.
If it were a good strategy for leading, then the fundamentals of trust and the encouragement of creativity would be totally destroyed in every business and organization that leads that way.
Just imagine the mess we'd be in if the energy chain, the food supply, access to health care, street directions, stop light changes, etc were all unpredictable.
Tlit doesn't care. We pay for every expense and privilege he has. He expects and demands that.
Unpredictable, outside of mind games, like poker, is another word for unhinged.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Trump the Uniter

Recently Trump made these comments aboard his airplane to a number of reporters:
“Mine is a message of hope, not a message of fear.”
“”As a businessman, I have an obligation to get along with people;
that’s democrats, republicans, virtually every politician.”
“I have great respect for a number of the candidates I am running against.”
“I am extremely inclusive.  I am going to bring people together”  (how’s he doing so far…couldn’t resist)

Keep in mind that Trump really only cares about himself and his image, but YOU know that.  Even politicians do not need demean, degrade, and debase everyone who has ever disliked them or didn’t agree with them.
I have a another post of 68 people Trump has insulted.  It just takes three minutes. But, here are some  the HOPEFUL, INCLUSIVE, UNITING messages that Trump says or tweets.

 - government should shut down mosques, start a database to track them, and prohibit Muslims from entering the US.
  US should not accept Syrian refugees for fear that ISIS could be hiding among them”
“our country will be overrun.” “Mexico is sending their worst, their murderers and their rapists”
– “The Republicans don’t know how to negotiate, to be honest with you.”
“I’m a Republican, it’s embarrassing to watch them negotiate.”
African Americans
 – tweeted false crime statistics indicating most killings were done by black people. Protesters for Black Lives Matter “maybe should have been roughed up”.
Ben Carson
– Carson either totally fabricates his stories or worse he tried to hit his mother over the head with a hammer and tried to stab a friend. Violent criminal or pathological liar. “don”t know about his religion”
Marco Rubio
 – weak on illegal immigration. A lightweight.  Rubio is disloyal and asked Jeb Bush to denounce him as a friend.
Jeb Bush
- needs to be more competent. Low energy person. “lost” “pathetic”
George W. Bush
- “When you talk about George Bush, I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.”
Mitt Romney
 – “choke loss to Obama is 2012, blew an election that should never have been lost”
Carly Fiorina
 – “interrupted everyone during Nov 10 debates. She has a failing campaign.”
John Kasich
– “irrelevant to the race”,  “ a complete and total dud” “one of the worst presidential candidates in history”
Lindsey Graham
 – polling so low he should drop out
Hillary Clinton
– “weak on immigration”, “totally incompetent”, “corruption is what she’s best at”. – “one of the worst secretary of states  (sic)” “had a bad record” “Elect Hillary and you have a country that goes to hell”

Martin O’Malley
 – “the failed former Mayor of Baltimore and “a clown”. “Why is he on the stage?”
Barack Obama
– “Obama has a horrible attitude. “he is resigned to defeat” “Obama is insane for continuing his support of accepting Syrian refugees.”
John Kerry
– Kerry is ‘the worst of all time”
Bernie Sanders
 – “manic” “socialist/communist”
Bill de Blasio
- “de Blasio is the worst mayor in the united states.”
Jonathan Martin (NYT reporter)
– “such bad reporting, he should learn how to read the polls before writing his next story”
Serge Kovaleski (NYT reporter)
– mocked reporter for questioning Trump’s claim of seeing thousands of people cheering in New Jersey on the collapse of Twin Towers.
Trump mocked his disability by flailing his are arms saying “you oughta see this guy – “uh, I don’t know what I said, uh, I don’t remember.”
Chris Stirewalt (Fox News political editor)
 – “one of the dumbest political pundits on television”
Charles Lane (WSJ)
 –“ it’s amazing that some of the dumbest people on television work for the Wall Street Journal, in particular a real dope named Charles Lane”
George Will
 – “broken down political pundit”, “boring”, should be “thrown off Fox News”
Wall Street Journal – writers are “dummies”
Vanity Fair (Graydon Carter)
– “ Vanity Fair is doing really poorly” “watched Carter fail and close Spy Magazine. He is a total loser”
Associated Press (Jeff Horwitz)
–“ AP is irrelevant, and I can say from experience their reporting is terrible and highly inaccurate” “Horwitz is one of the worst reporters in the business”
Karl Rove
 – “Rove is a total fool and a biased dope”
Ronda Rousey
 “glad to see that Ronda Rousey lost her championship fight last night. Was soundly beaten – not a nice person”
- “their journalists are clowns”, “their reporting is dishonest”
Glenn Beck (and John Boehner)
 – “Wacky Glenn Beck who always seems to be crying (worse than John Boehner) speaks badly of me only because I refuse to do his show, a real nut job”
Bill Kristol
– “dopey” “lost all credibility with so many dumb statements and picks”
Marc Thiessen
-  “a failed Bush speechwriter whose work was so bad that he has never been able to make a comeback.” “A third rate talent”

I would bet my house that I forgot a few people in this list, or that there won’t be many more before the first primaries. Remember, that if Trump attacks and demeans you, it is because he respects you and wants to unite everyone.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Drinking is Good for Soul

I am patiently waiting for some followers of my blog. It's like waiting for Godot.
I like drinking good liquor and good wine. It would be nice to get feedback about your favorites too. Once we have a small group we could actually start evaluations and ratings - or not.
My favorites are currently Tequila and Bourbon. Tequila favorites tend to be anejo. brand favs : Don Julio, Clase Azul, Herradura and many many more.

Bourbons represent a much smaller selection sadly. My favorites are  George T Stagg, Michters, Pappy van Winkle, Jefferson's Reserve(small batch) and Booker Noe's.
Fill me in on your favs. Thanks

Knowing the unknowable.

Religion, religious organization and those belonging to those groups have puzzled me my entire adult life.
When I think or write about religion, I wonder what I could think or say that has not been said before, probably by someone much more intelligent than I.
I also wonder, what percentage of religious people have minds that are solidly fixed in their dogma. Those with fixed minds, either rationalize their doubts, punish themselves for having doubts, or simply ignore any rational arguments about their beliefs.  Classically, this is common among fundamentalists and others who believe in creationism and not evolution.  For them, "Science is lies from the pits of Hell"  End of further argument.
I have heard that certain beliefs,  practices and laws come from the Laws of God from the beginning time. Then I shudder.
First of all, using a phrase such as "from the beginning of time" is so grandiose as to engender awe.
But what does it mean? The beginning of time?  Doesn't that imply there was a moment before that when there was no time?
We understand time as the progression of events, whether macro or micro. To have time, things must change. How can there have been a God before the beginning of time? Did God exist at absolute zero?  Do religious folks imagine God as corporeal or amorphous energy? In either case, just as in the Big Bang theory, to start time, God must have gone from static to active.
What is the religious belief behind that transformation. Why would God decide to just do nothing.?
Actually, if God was even thinking about being active, God would be active already and there would be time. So already one dilemma concerning the beginning of time emerges.
My next thought concerns creation. To create the Earth and Mankind, religions bestow the following attributes to God:  omnicognizance,  omnipotence, and omnipresence.
If  God is all knowing, then he must know everything that will happen from the beginning of time to the end of time. There can be no surprises for God because God is everywhere simultaneously, knowing exactly how everything God decided to create would unfold.
If God is omnipotent, then God could imagine Earth and it's occupants and the sun and the hundreds of billions of galaxies.  There would be no need to create any of it.
Could God have been bored? Did he need something, like adoration? Well, if  God created man, God wrote the script by which all men would behave. God created the Adoration of God. If some men did not believe in God, he would have known who, why and when, eons before. Why would God ever get angry at any of Man's behaviors, if God as Creator, knew exactly what would happen?
Does God need entertainment? .  That would be my guess about why God made Man with free will. God would have to blind himself to all knowing and be surprised by Man's behaviors.
Then, surprised, God would be acting with anger and emotion at the very events which God could have predicted or chose not to predict so that God would be entertained.
If God got so angry that he would annihilate some of his Creation, doesn't it raise the issue that God was not entertained? If  God was, God would continue to observe.
My conclusion, and I'm not the first,  is that man created the concept of God.
Who wrote the Bible? : many  men over a very long period of time and in many languages.
Some of those languages are so archaic, no one knows really what some words and phrases were intended to mean. Instead the so called "words of God" are Man's interpretation of the words of God.
Why the insistence that the Bible is true word of God, when man clearly wrote the words. Man is not perfect. If God really wanted Man to have his Bible, then God could have created IT in its entirety, with rules, laws, aphorisms, poetry and inspiration presented in such a format and in such a way that there would be no question as to its origin.
Why didn't God create us instantly? Why six days?  It's more interesting prose.
Out of space in this blog. The beginning.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ser o estar

There is a hierarchy of all our actions.  Primarily we do what we need to do; what we must do to continue living.  The newborn screams to fill its lungs with air.  It learns that it can safely hold its breath for a relatively short time before searing pain reminds it to inhale.  We have a need to respect and interact reflexively with gravity.  A person moving off a ledge, being defenestrated or leaping from a plane must know the appropriate action to prevent lethal contact with ground after the fall. These are some needs we have: not a complete list, nor necessarily in order of urgency (though breathing is probably at the top of the list).
Then there are the actions we have to perform. These required behaviors are constant and periodic. You can take your time with all of them, but at sometime you must do things like pee or risk a burst bladder. You must eat or your body will consume itself until you can no longer do anything, but you can stop concerning yourself with having to shit. If you eat and don't defecate you are in a world of hurt. It is a must.
Then there are the should dos. You may survive a surprisingly long time without performing should 
actions, but your life is likely to suffer a negative 
blowback unless you are a masochist. You should take your hand as quickly as you out of a fire, or put on an oven mitt before touching anything in a hot oven. Being out naked in the sun also holds the potential for burning skin, so watch your time and pinkening. So many should dos to learn. So little time. Using a sharp knife is a very useful action if you have learned how to avoid cutting deeply into your own flesh.
Then there are the want to dos.  The like to dos. These are activities that at some level give you pleasure. If you are fortunate, all of the must and have to dos will fall into this category. Taking a 
good piss or shit.  Eating and drinking tasty 
nourishing food. Opening the parachute at the right time after having jumped out of the airplane.
You'd thing having sex, which is so pleasurable to most might also be a have to do.  Well, it is a necessity for the survival of our species, but not for ourselves. Copulation is often recreation. This category includes so many actions and mind states that no one should ever have to ask you what you want to do.  The pleasure principle will soon lead you to one of those behaviors.  Now mind you, this is a very tough category to open up to everyone at any time in any place.  These want to dos can be illegal, immoral, unseemly, disgusting 
to others, and dangerous ( are you stupid? ). 

Finally, the don't want to do actions. These are the behaviors for which you need to learn to delay your gratification and/ or avoid punishment. There is a hierarchy within the above proffered hierarchy because not all the actions are so totally unpleasant that you will not do them, and some are so fear, disgust, and anxiety provoking that you might prefer being locked up in jail, than doing them.  Fear can paralyze, in which case there's  virtually nothing you can do try to keep breathing.  Who is afraid a thousand spiders sleeping with you in your bed?  Who would jump into a full latrine and orally sample the degree of  biodegradation?  We go to work, do chores like taking out the trash, spend our money to buy groceries, clean up the dog poop from the carpet where Rover has shit lately for the past three days. Take Rover to the Doggie Training School. You get the idea. Life should get better with the don't 
want to dos, so you really try to do them. Aren't you a responsible adult after all?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Aging is not all bad.  There are many positive trade offs.  First of all, as experience and knowledge are accumulated, one might hope to have a calmer more balanced way to deal with the challenges of living. Secondly, one accumulates more flexible time to engage in activities outside of work. In my case, having retired, I have taken up the brush and canvas and my imagination spurs works of art that seem to improve significantly as I practice. Thirdly,  I get to watch...... really watch my grandchildren grow up.  I get to interact and observe.  Parents don't generally have the time to do both because they are nurturing, protecting and managing their kids.  One day blends into the next and like the frames in a motion picture,  adjacent frames (days) don't reveal much change. Before you realize it, the story of childhood is over and you've missed many of the really funny parts, the tender parts, the amazing parts. As a grandparent,  you get the scenes interspersed by weeks or months and the changes are evident and the progress of becoming is apparent.
The balance is that age also requires more self maintenance.  The most important decision you make as you enjoy your latter years is how you take care of yourself.  I maintain by forcing myself (self-discipline) to exercise, lift weights, bend, and generally get active during the day. If you make the decision to become an old couch potato, there will come a day, that the couch is your bed and you can't get off it. I decide to exercise my mind as well, by crossword puzzles, scrabble games, sudoku (only 5 star), go, reading and pondering the subject of my next artwork.  Aging is unavoidable, but don't let it imprison you in a non-functional body if you can do anything about it.
Life is making decisions.  Don't avoid them.  Don't give up to divine intervention. No one stands around waiting to reroute  your life and save you.  Decide.