Friday, October 21, 2016

Fact check political narrative in economic discussion

Never bothered to listen to the budget speech. More keen on the broad area of past performance, forecast, challenges, strategy and focus.

Rather wait out for the next morning paper for the details. 

The budget to be tabled by Dato Najib in Parliament this evening is important. It will be the first budget after the loss of oil revenue. Meeting public expectation, or more accurately, to meet the expectation of a public so used to government subsidy will be a challenge.

One can expect much hue and cry, especially from among the Bumiputera community experiencing the transition or government buzzword, transformation from dependent on NEP to be more independent, competitive and merit, from highly subsidised economy to a more efficient and focused subsidy system, and towards high income economy.

There have been some prepping in the mainstream media and that brought about politically motivated statements, actions and deceptions to lure the public out of reality into emotional responses beneficial to their power quest.

Politicians being politicians, particularly opposition seeking for power, will manipulate the basic cognitive nature of human.

It was touched before in the posting here touching on public gullibility or in an attempt to be political correct, cognitive miserly. It means literally lazy to think.

This time it relates to a psychology book entitled The Political Brain. It was recommended by a friend

After reading several review, believe it was nothing new worthy to spend money to buy from Amazon. However, the essence of the book is important to be shared.

Scientific American described the phenomenon researched by Drew Westen of Emory University as confirmation bias with an observation by philosopher Francis Bacon:
The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion ... draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises ... in order that by this great and pernicious predetermination the authority of its former conclusions may remain inviolate. --Francis Bacon, Novum Organum, 1620
In an experiment to assess brain activity of a group of politicians to statements by George Bush and John Kerry, it was found that:
The neuroimaging results, however, revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning--the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex--was quiescent. Most active were the orbital frontal cortex, which is involved in the processing of emotions; the anterior cingulate, which is associated with conflict resolution; the posterior cingulate, which is concerned with making judgments about moral accountability; and--once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable--the ventral striatum, which is related to reward and pleasure.
The conclusion as to take a line from a NYT review in 2007, is a horrific and scary prospect.
"Reason and rationality, therefore, play a limited role in political decisions."

That explains the direction of the campaign for the current US Presidency between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

As a non-politician, Trump has an attribute frustrated voters with Washington bureaucrasy look for. But he lack the experience, verbal articulation and temperament to get into the usual political debate of election.

So he stick to his experience as a wheeler dealer and salesman and outrightly pursued the emotional side of the public to the hilt. It is an election campaign practise long abandoned in the US. Their's are more subtle and subliminal.

His shock and awe strategy was successful during the Republican primaries against opponents unprepared with his straight talking, no holds barred, and provocative ways.

Despite lacking any coherent strategy or plan to offer votets, he managed to get the attention of his targeted core group of white, working class and conservatives. If Hillary had stuck to the ways of other Republican candidates did, she would have been dead meat.

Though trying hard to remain presidential and "play high", her polls were about even for a favourite leading to the first debate. It was the emotive issues on women, racial issues, non-disclosure and non paying of tax, and stiffing contractors that turned the table for Hillary.

After yesterday's, it would be only divine intervention or the remote possibility of Trump nullifying the election by refusing to accept results that could deny Hillary the presidency.

Hillary anticipated Trump will try hard to behave and be presidential. She upped her ante with the timely dispensing of Trump's own medicine. Read this New York Times fun piece here.

Sadly, the much respected US Presidential debate with it's content of facts, arguments and ideas has came down to the most prepared person to assume the Presidency accusing Donald of cheating out of paying social security and getting a "nasty woman" response.

Guess Malaysian politics is not far off.

Yesterday, Theresa Kok responded to accuse Gerakan MP of "jahat" for interjecting and rebutting her with the argument Penang government failed to consult federal government on the undersea tunnel project.

Political narrative cannot be avoided from serious public discussion on economy, policies and government.

Corruption is human's individual fallacy but it is convenient political rhetorics to invoke anger towards a certain party. Today, it is being worked against both sides in Malaysia.

The budget for 2017 to be tabled in Parliament today will expect the same political rhetorical treatment too.

With cash rich Saudi Arabia just announced a US$17 billion bond issue, the first ever borrowing and massive one, it is childish of Tun Dr Mahathir to snipe a remark of budget being useless because it is only promises and government will not be able to meet the budget.

Budget has always been about plan and projection. It is about getting prepared. Only economic reports are sure as it gives snapshot of what happened and maybe a glimpse of likely trend.

Under stable condition, all will be within expectation. It is during volatile condition which no economic forecaster and planner could be right. During the currency crisis of 1998-2000, did Mahathir not also had to retable his budget for not meeting his revenue forecast?

Mahathir words cannot be taken seriously. It is obvious he had not detoured from his initial chronology of issues based on the political slogans on dedak, cash is king, personal potshot at Najib and Rosmah, GST and BR1M. The other two of his core issues are Sirul and 1MDB.

Off late, with him in a political warpath, Mahathir is not on rational mode and have not got his facts and figures in order.

Seademon here highlighted the inconsistencies in his economic views. Debt to GDP ratio during his time reached more than 100%!

Mahathir is on Machivellian power quest mode and not interested for a sensible and serious discussion on the economy.

His intention is only to ignite anger among the public. If ISA is still around, there are basis to detain him. Only it looks cruel and politically incorrect to do so on a 91 year old man.

He is not doing to well thus have to be friendly with Anwar and Kit Siang. Sirul issue have been thrown in the dumpster. No doubt his 1MDB one issue agenda to topple the PM is taking it's course but already the Monet painting to be seized by DOJ is disputed by the real owner.

It could put into question DOJ's fact gathering and earnestness in investigation. Malaysian born Australian lawyer, Quentin Rozario may have a point in the issues of law raised on DOJ's filing.

With Loretta Lynch name seldom appeared in the election campaign with relate to issue on the Clinton Foundation, do not discount unexpected development on her and the Kleptocrasy suit against Red Granite.

As Rocky summarised here, the so-called nook tightening on PM's neck is not even around his neck. Yet pro-toon already presumed guilty on just evidence-lacking accusation by Mahathir.

Next week on 28th Red Granite is due to file their defense. Should be interesting development in the midst of budget debate with opposition using the fictitious alternative budget to champion political cause.

They claimed they could halved PM Department budget and zero-rise GST. It is surely a popular move but the absurdity of it is where are they going to get the revenue to fund their budget as pointed out by Liow.

If the political rhetorics is about PM Office, at least distinguish between PMO and PM Department. The various programs and agencies established under PM Department will still need to be re-direct to other Ministries.

Closing it up will be disastrous to the economy. In a situation where government role is needed to stimulate and transform the economy, opposition is adding more short term problem for political expediency.

Maybe they are Republicans. Do they really think their Trumped-up trickle down economic budget could save the economy from crashing?

It is another factually deficient Kadir Jasin-like conspiracy theory of failing economy at work. The role of Government and economic mechanism stop working in a failed economy, Is it happening?

Obviously not as it is tough time, and reform or transformation to correct over done from the past and adjusting to different times.

Do hope someone analyse the budget development over the years throughout Najib's premiership. There should be a consistent theme.

With such shallow arguments and debate, does it mean there is no hope for a rational and mature politics in US and Malaysia?

Maybe it is not so bleak a prospect if new generation of voters demand for credible and meaningful dialogue and discourse over empty political rhetorics.

For that to happen, they should not fall for the shallow rhetorics like between Bersih and anti-Bersih people and various deceptive game in play like lying about withdrawal of cooking oil subsidy and toll hike. 

It would be beneficial for them and other sensible voters to have an independent body with no partisan leaning do fact checking of politicians statements and allegations.

Will Malaysian voters crucify the deceptive, diversionary and deflective politicians?

In yesterday's third debate, Trump was caught on too many occassion. It could be the reason he seemed destined for a major wipeout as Hillary close in on traditional Republican electoral colleges.

Scientific American concluded:
We need similar controls for the confirmation bias in the arenas of law, business and politics. Judges and lawyers should call one another on the practice of mining data selectively to bolster an argument and warn juries about the confirmation bias. CEOs should assess critically the enthusiastic recommendations of their VPs and demand to see contradictory evidence and alternative evaluations of the same plan. Politicians need a stronger peer-review system that goes beyond the churlish opprobrium of the campaign trail, and I would love to see a political debate in which the candidates were required to make the opposite case.
Ten years after this article, their political debate have been demeaned to mud wrestling and no different to third world politics of Malaysia if we ever could start an intelligent political debate.

Still, the answer to bring sensability lies in the last line:
Skepticism is the antidote for the confirmation bias.

Already got what's needed.

Rather go for workout to loosen upper torso syndrome issues. Enjoy listening to the budget!

*Edited 17/10 9:00 AM

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Have you seen him who takes his own lust (vain desires) as his ilah (god), and Allah knowing (him as such), left him astray, and sealed his hearing and his heart, and put a cover on his sight. Who then will guide him after Allah? Will you not then remember?
045:023 Maulana
Seest thou him who takes his desire for his god, and Allah leaves him in error knowingly, and seals his hearing and his heart and puts a covering on his sight? Who can then guide him after Allah? Will you not mind?
045:023 Pickthal
Hast thou seen him who maketh his desire his god, and Allah sendeth him astray purposely, and sealeth up his hearing and his heart, and setteth on his sight a covering? Then who will lead him after Allah (hath condemned him)? Will ye not then heed?
045:023 Rashad
Have you noted the one whose god is his ego? Consequently, GOD sends him astray, despite his knowledge, seals his hearing and his mind, and places a veil on his eyes. Who then can guide him, after such a decision by GOD? Would you not take heed?
045:023 Sarwar
Have you seen the one who has chosen his desires as his lord? God has knowingly caused him to go astray, sealed his ears and heart and veiled his vision. Who besides God can guide him? Will they, then, not take heed?.
045:023 Shakir
Have you then considered him who takes his low desire for his god, and Allah has made him err having knowledge and has set a seal upon his ear and his heart and put a covering upon his eye. Who can then guide him after Allah? Will you not then be mindful?
045:023 Sherali
Hast thou considered the case of him who has taken his own low desire for his god, and whom ALLAH has adjudged as having gone astray on the basis of HIS perfect knowledge, and whose ears and whose heart HE has sealed up, and on whose eyes HE has put a covering. Who, then, will guide him after ALLAH has so decreed concerning him? Will you not then take heed?
045:023 Yusufali

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