Adonis Diaries

Archive for October 2011

Transparent accounting: Based on revenue, away with totally biased Net Profit gimmick

Revenue is the one item in the balance sheet that no corporation is about to cheat on, not even gang and drug criminal organizations. Why?

Board of director members take their cuts directly from the total revenue.

They know how much the company is generating in gross profit, excluding side revenues and under the table bonuses and favors…The percentage on the revenue cut must correspond to 50% of the gross profit, and they get first cut, ahead of time, and all other items can be changed to correspond to the expected net profit.

You cannot have a balance sheet or working statement or any other accounting gimmick without accurate revenue…

Even without the huge amount of data, financial and economical data, companies in particular line of business have an appreciation of the gross profit before the legal year starts, based on the previous revenue and accurate forecasting…

Every item in the balance sheet is known as a percentage of the revenue.  You change a percentage and you know what the managers should be doing as consequences: Fire employees and how many, reduce facility costs, save on energy, training, quality of spare parts, inspection, quality control,…

Actually, all the accounting standards and accounting schools and degrees are not meant to fine-tune the accounting records of anything.

The government and the corporations have no need for all the accurate numbers and inspection of records and papers: They know the revenue and the proper percentage on the revenue that each item is measured accordingly.

Government can as easily and more accurately get the taxes on revenue, instead of waiting for the gross profit computation, and saving the citizens the exacerbation of enacting loopholes as large as the State of Montana.

If the financial and business communities consider the tax rate on revenue high or exaggerated, they can lobby to simply reduce the rate of the percentage on the revenue…What’s the big deal?

Is transparency anathema to governing?

Should government persist on creating more mysteries than the citizens are ready to swallow?

Is governing meant to constantly resume the financial emulation of cult organizations with code-names, secrecy, childish gimmick…?

Why the top 1% of corporations have to skim 20% of total revenue, then rearrange all the items in the balance sheet, so that the workers and employees sweat out negotiating on a better minimum wage?

Who is taking advantages of the small prints as footnotes in the balance sheet and other accounting gimmicks? Why should the nation needs expert on how to comprehend the meaning of the footnotes, if transparency is the goal in transactions?

Occupy Wall Street protests should demand that accounting ratios should be transparent on a special accounting sheet:  Citizens must know how much the top 1% are actually paid, how much the middle management is paid, and how much the rank-and-file of workers are paid as a proportion of the total revenue…

Actually, who is generating the profit if not the workers and employees, and who is making the economy grow, and who is defending the interests of the top 1%?

Occupy Wall Street protests task is to demand transparency in all financial undertaking, starting with a transparent accounting.

Deterministic or free-will behavior: What is priming the “Thief Program”?

Do you know that a few universities have opened courses in “experimental philosophy“?

This new field of study combine neurosciences research with theoretical philosophical concepts such as finding out whether people believe that their behaviors and actions are determined (or perceived as predetermined) or if the “free-will factor” is a working concept…

This field of study wants to associate reflective and elaborate concepts with experimental studies.

Last September, the John Templeton Foundation contributed $4.4 million to a 4-year program in interdisciplinary research projects among natural scientists, philosophers, and theologians…

Apparently, Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols are working on 3 domains:  One, using neurosciences tools to study cerebral activities of subjects confronted with philosophical problems;

Two, adopting questionnaires to clarify intuitions and modalities of everyday reasoning, and

Three, conducting field experiences for observing the manners individuals behave in particular circumstances and situations.

US philosopher Daniel Dennett published “Theory of the evolution of liberty, (2004)” claims that we have tendency to dissociate the “I” from “my brain”.  For example, is there a specific zone in the brain exclusively reserved for the “I” or the “Cartesian theater of operations“?

The neuropsychology Benjamin Libet demonstrated that we become conscious of a decision half a second after our body gets prepared to react to a decision.

For example, the disparate “I” in our constitution and brain parts contribute to the decision.  It is sort every single muscle has an “I”, our genetic constitution has an “I”, every section and network of neurons has an “I”.

All our “I” have to reach a working consensus before the body react and a decision can be carried out. Isn’t that how a skill is described?

Neuroscientist Patrick Haggard wrote: “When we talk of free-will, we mean the richness of the act, of our capacity of acting intelligently, of not reacting in the same manner to the same stimuli…”

Scientists, neuroscientists, neuropsychologists, philosophers, theologians, and the legal profession have to agree on baseline consensus principles before any reasonable set of experiments can be carried out for the purpose of resolving this critical question.

First, operational definitions of “what is free-will decision” and “what is understood by deterministic behavior” we are measuring?

For example, how can these concepts be measured and quantified in any experiment? So far, neuroscientists consider an excitation of neurons in the brain as indication of a decision to act.  Their preferred measuring sticks are time of onset of the excitation and its duration…

Second, what kinds of excitations and their intensity level can be indicators of a particular decision? Sort of we need to agree on a taxonomy of decision.

For example, pushing a button, decisions for submitting to a test, an exam…considering an opportunity, running for election, committing a crime…

Third, the legal institutions must be involved in the definition and operational decisions. For example, will the court accept the definition and findings of the neuroscientists as valid in court under the principle of “individual responsibility”? Otherwise, how pragmatic any results can contribute to better mankind existence?

Four, how to separate community moral and ethical standards from how the real world functions and how people actually have tendency to behave?

For example, experiments demonstrated that group of subjects who were induced to believe in a deterministic world tended to cheat significantly (statistically) more often than the compared groups… Does cheating an indicator of community culture or an individual moral value…?

In Jan. 23, 2010, I published an article titled “Abduction field” or a priori “stealing” program” behavior.

I coined the term “abduction field” to describe and explain how people manage to function in their daily routine. People move and act as if executing an “a priori program”:  They seem to mentally “pick up” objects and event as they go about. People seem to know in advance what they want to do.

Hazards are just obstacles that the “abduction field” in the brain failed to adjust, in a timely manner, to redesign the plan.  It might be a good idea to explain what abduction reasoning means before I venture into this topic, and I urge you to read note#1, before you resume reading.

People use the abduction reasoning technique as routine behavior to decide, move, or act. People have implicitly a priori (idea, plan, concept, hypothesis, path, or line of actions) before they get moving.

People move as if they already know what will happen next; they adjust their plan as frequently as obstacles occur.  Thus, abduction reasoning is the rule instead of the exception in most commonly used strategies.  We either start our “conscious day” with a priming thief program or we opt for the default “Habit thief program” to carry on our daily decisions and activities.

The abduction field explains the contradictory feeling we have that our actions are frequently determined or occasionally following a free-will course of action.

For example, if we consciously start with a thief program that is pre-programmed to suit what we want today, we tend to steal objects, events, opportunities on our way.  Otherwise, the default value is the “habit thief program”, and we feel that the day is pretty much determined.

The individual “I” is spread all over our organism, physical, genetics, and mental (brain). Decisions are delayed until all the different varieties of “I” reach a working consensus, or a particular “I” or a set of “I” override the other I, depending on which thief program we launched at the start of the day, rejump it during the day according to our circadian cycles.

For a set of “I” to be able to override the many other “I” it requires a conscious effort of training and awareness for a long time. That is why, we have the feeling that our behavior is pretty much determined because we allow the “conventional wisdom”, habit of convenience, comfort, and “common sense” attitude to taking over our decision processes.

A good way to explaining the abduction field theory is by observing someone who is familiar with a particular supermarket.  The customer moves around and pick up items in a determined manner.

A few times, the customer stops and study particular varieties of the “same” items for prices, weight and chemical contents.  The supermarket guide the customer to pose and attend to special new items displayed on shelves. The customer might look as if he just woke up or is disoriented, but his action is kind of planned: he behaves pretty “sober” in his decisions.

People move and act within abduction fields of reasoning, otherwise, how can we imagine extending a step forward without advanced planning? The initial schemas of abduction fields are not that well oiled, and many errors and pitfalls occur during the abduction plans.  By the by, the human brain gets adjusted and trained to secure better fit in forecasting next steps and moves.

Highly intelligent people differ from normal intelligence in that, more frequently than not, they consciously apply deductive and inductive reasoning on their initiated abduction fields.  The implicit purpose is to optimize the “abductive field” performance by supporting it with better formal or coded laws among the working laws.

With conscious training and application of the other two reasoning methods, the individual acquire higher intelligence reasoning choices or diversified perspectives to viewing and resolving a problem.

Brainwashing is an application phenomenon of abduction field distortion.  Brainwashing is not so much a process of feeding misinformation or disinformation as in ideologically and dogmatic State-controlled government.  Brainwashing is the process of altering the abduction field so that an individual lacks the objective flexibility to pick up the appropriate objects, tools, or events to place on his “abduction path”.

For example,  the individual is picking what is available on his path, including ready-made terminology and definitions, and not what his brain was more likely to select in normal conditions.  The more institutions restrict the freedom of choices, the more the citizen is expected to select what is available to him.

The citizen starts emulating the “ideology” or the opinions of what have been displayed to him.  Most State institutions control people in restricting the availability of choices and opportunities, regardless what names are given to them (communist, socialist, democratic, capitalist, theocratic…)

When we say “this guy is a one track-mind or one-dimensional mind”, we basically means that his abduction field has been restricted by habit: His brain ended up lacking the potential flexibility and versatility to train and develop his abduction field reasoning.

Note 1: It might be a good idea to explain what abduction reasoning means before I venture into this topic.  Human mind uses many reasoning methods such as deduction, induction, and abduction.

Deductive reasoning is a process that starts from a set of basic propositions (proved or considered the kind of non provable truths) and then prove the next propositions based on the previous set.  In general, a law, natural or social, or a theorem in mathematics guides the demonstration.  Practically, it is like using a function to find the appropriate pieces of data or information that are available on a well drawn path or trend.

Inductive reasoning is a process of selecting samples from a phenomenon or a basket of items and then studying the samples.  If the items are the “same” in each sample then the individual is prone to recognize that a law is guiding that phenomenon. The sample taker is ready to form a law, though he knows that logically, if in the future one sample is wrong, then the law is logically invalid. In the mean time, the sample taker can resume his life as if the law is valid, as long as it is working (more frequently than not).

We call a “paradigm shift” the period when accumulated samples or observations are showing to be “false” and that the law has to be dropped for a better performing law.  The process needs time before the scientific community reaches a consensus for a change in venue, simply because it was comfortable using well-known mental structures.  The paradigm shift period is shortened if a valid alternative is demonstrated to work far better, not just slightly better, than the previous theory.

Abduction reasoning is an “intuitive” process such as having a few facts or data and we manage to find a connection among these facts.  In a way, we got an idea that the facts follow a definite trend.

For example, the astronomer and mathematician Kepler started with the notion that planets move in circles around the sun; his observations of Mars detected two positions that didn’t coincide with any circle. Kepler selected another trajectory among those mathematically described in geometry that might be appropriate.  The elliptical shape accounted for the two observed positions of Mars.

Kepler got convinced that planet trajectories are elliptical, but he needed to convince the “scientific community”. Thus, Kepler worked for many years waiting for Mars to cross different positions that he knew would inevitably be on the ellipse anyway.

Note 2: I am under the impression that Spinoza had the same philosophical theory when he wrote: “The movements of our investigative spirit obey real laws”.  If we think well, we are bound to think according to rules that link things one to another.  Kant adopted this reasoning and offered the “a priori” dispositions of the mind.

Note 3: You may access

Note 4: I stumbled on this topic reading a piece in the French weekly “The International Courrier” #1095.

What do they share: KuKlusKlan, Drug Cartels, Extremist religious sects…?

Random violence is the most striking resemblance among criminal organizations and one-dimensional violent ideological parties and extreme religious sects.

These criminal organizations start their projects with the strategy of random violence, until the 1% on the top of the organization realizes that business is brisk and profit is coming in.  At this phase, random violence activities are reduced to a minimum, sort of couple of random violent acts are enough to remind the community that “we are still here, and kicking…” I’ll expose a few example of such organizations.

One, on KuKlusKlan.

After the American Civil War, six lawyer soldiers in the Confederate army formed a budding midnight pranks, riding horses and draped in white sheets and pillow-case hoods.  This group chose “KuKlus” for name, from the Greek kuklos or “circle of friends”.

Five former general in the Confederate army, supported by plantation owners, adopted the name and terrorized and killed emancipated black slaves.  This new organization added Kl as a prefix to names, thus Klan for clan.

President Ulysses S. Grant delivered a speech to the House of Representatives in 1872, on the objectives of the Klan: “They are organized to prevent all political action not in accord with the views of the members, to deprive colored citizens of the right to bear arms, and of the right of a free ballot, to suppress the schools in which colored children were taught, and to reduce the colored people to a condition closely allied to that of slavery…

Within a decade in 1870’s, the Klan, as an organization, was defeated by legal and military intervention out of Washington DC. As the federal government troops withdrew from the South, and combined with US Supreme Court ruling for full-scale racial segregation, the Klan reappeared in force.

By 1920, the Klan claimed 8 million members and insinuated that most politicians and police forces in the south were Klans.

This climate of the “supremacists” cowed the Blacks into hunkering down into their own communities. Statistics gathered from 1890 to 1970, revealed the following facts:

First, in the decade of 1890-1899, there were 1,111 lynchings of Blacks, and this number dropped steadily to 3 in the 60’s.

Second, the decades which witnessed high lynching frequency coincided with periods of Klan “suppressed activities”.  Thus, the lynchings were carried out by the prevalent social/political climate of racial discrimination, a climate that the Klan managed to disseminate.

Third, by the 30’s, lynching was no longer a profitable necessity: The huge business profit of the “Board of Directors” of the Klan didn’t need but a couple of lynching per year to go a long way in inducing docile behavior among the southern people.

The Klan created rackets, generated money from “protection of business owners to scare off the unions“, donations from frequent rallies, dues from members… How the Klan lost ground? (Read note 1)

Two, on drug dealers and drug cartels... Read note 4.  You’ll discover that almost all criminal organizations are structured as the legal liberal capitalist enterprises, and that the rational is basically the same for withholding sharing profit with the lower rank-and-files, such as workers and employees.

Three, on extreme religious sects. Since time immemorial, sects in relative majority in a community tend to engage in random violence in order to vacate or force the minority sects into transferring somewhere else.

After the occupation of Iraq by US troops in 2003, waves of “terrorist” random violent mass killing by car-bombs were meant to securing the displacement of minority sects outside the zone of influence of the majority in a region.

Although these occurrences have diminished in number, the toll in casualties for every activity is as large and as brutal as ever. These random violence on “innocent civilians” are strong messages that “we are here…and we want our share of the pie…”

The Zionist terror organizations in Palestine were the first groups to instituting these random violence tactics in the Middle-East, during British mandate. The terror resumed after the partition of Palestine into two lands, at the recognition of the State of Israel, after the recognition, and continuing till today.

Actually, most of the current Islamic “terrorist” organizations have learned the tools and procedures from their Masters the Zionist terror organizations.

For example, the Zionist Irgun and Haganah terror parties forced Palestinians out of their villages by committing genocides in several towns. During the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, Israel dropped bombs on high-rise buildings:  The special bombs (given away by the US Administrations) were of the kind to pierce all floors and detonate in the basement, where hundreds of civilians were huddled.

This tactic was to convince civilians to vacate the area before the advance of the Israeli army…The genocide in the Palestinian camps of Sabra, Chatila, Jenine…are samples of this criminal mentality. Read note 2.

The civil war in Lebanon that lasted over 17 years witnessed random violence by sectarian militia organizations in order to securing their own canton by “cleansing” the areas from “unwanted minorities

Note 1: From a chapter of “Freakonomics” by Levitt and Dubner, we read that Stetson Kennedy, aided by an inside informant to the inner circles of the Klan, disseminated information and pieces of intelligence to journalist Drew Pearson, whose radio program “Washington Merry-Go Round” was heard by million of adults every day, and also to the producers of the show “Adventures of Superman“, which reached million of children every day.

The US citizens got familiar with the secret code names and the secret childish behavior of the Klan organization.  Membership dropped drastically: People felt ashamed being fingered out as Klan…behaving in Klan antics… childish manner…

Note 2

Note 3

Note 4

Story of how Qadhafi was liquidated

An US drone, accompanied by a French jet fighter, targeted and bombed the convoy of Qadhafi. Details are vented out: A few hours before the drone bombed the convey, an US colonel in the Pentagon called his counterpart, a French intelligence  service agent who was designated to track Qadhafi whereabouts.  The US officer said: “The trap is set and Qadhafi should not get out alive: He might turn to be a “nuclear bomb” if tried by International Court…”  French soldiers are on the ground and leading the Libyan “revolutionary” militias.

The wounded Qadhafi hurried to hide in a water conduit and was taken out like a rat. The French turned Qadhafi over to a special unit named “The Jackal” that shot him in the head.

Qadhafi was not killed as Benito Mussolini, Italy fascist dictator. Mussolini fled, hiding in the back of a truck, in a German convoy headed to the Tyrol region in northern Italy.  The Italian resistance militia discovered Mussolini and his current girl friend. They were summarily put to trial and shot.

Qadhafi was assassinated by NATO.  What the US and the western European States wanted from the death of Qadhafi was to retain the trillion of dollars stashed in their economies.  No witness to proving the availability of the whisked trillion, but restitution…

Anyway, most of Qadhafi saved money were already spent and disposed of before the Libyan “civil war”.  A few billion will be released back to the Libyan government to prove good-will…

Abdel Jalil of the temporary Libyan government is downgrading the casualties.  He is claiming that the civil was consumed 20,000 dead, and 30,000 injured.  These numbers are already huge compared to a population barely of 5 million.  How long would we have to wait to know the approximate numbers of civilians dead by air attacks and collateral damages?

Somaz Miln wrote in The Guardian: “It is obvious that the way Qadhafi was eliminated is a war crime.  Eye-witness accounts proved that 53 dead bodies were found in the location where Qadhafi was assaulted, brutalized, and assassinated.   Over 500 civilians casualties were considered collateral damages by the NATO air bombing in the city of Sert in the last ten days…”

Note: A high graded freshly retired French intelligence agent wrote that France and England, with support of the US Administration, had plans to overthrow Qadhafi before the Tunisian revolt broke out. Why? Qadhafi thought that he could get away this time by purchasing military hardware, exclusively from Russia!  “No fly zone” plans were already drawn, along with the air defense bases to be targeted in Libya.  The Tunisia mass uprising, followed in Egypt soon after, delayed the execution plan…

US Administration tacit green light: Power in the Middle-East shared by military and Moslem Brotherhood movements

Why the US Administration and policy-makers reached a comprehensive strategy to allowing the Moslem Brotherhood (MB) political parties and movements to share power with the military in the Middle-East States?  Tunisia is the forerunner with the MB obtaining 45% of the votes.  Egypt and Libya are to follow suit.

This policy is not new: More than a decade ago, the US decided that the Turkish Moslem Brotherhood (MB) Party, lead by Erdogan PM, and representing the Moslem Sunni sect, is the preferred alternative to exclusive military rule.  The Turkish MB government has stuck steadfastly with the long-term US strategy in the region.  A successful case that the US believe could be executed and practiced in the other Arab/Islamic States…

The tacit rational of the US Administrations are:

First, sharing of power of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood with the military would facilitate a social deal with the Christian Cop minority (10% of the population), by making the MB movement directly responsible for any religious persecution;

Second, this sharing of power would rob the military government an essential tool of using Islamic factions in order to pressure minority sects in supporting government corruption policies…

Third, this sharing of power would facilitate confronting “terrorist” factions, which have taken an Islamic face and undertone…

Fourth, this cooperation in vastly Sunni majority States will oppose the growing Chiaa power in the region, spearheaded by Iran.  The US Administration has adopted the slogan that Iran is the Evil power that is frustrating its global strategy in the Greater Middle-East region. Iran decided to become self sufficient in military hardware production…

Fifth, the US wish this new alternative political system would behave differently, even though continuing with the same ideology of exclusion, discrimination, and considering the Chariaa (religious laws) as the source of civic legislation..

What the US and European States want in return for this sharing of power?

First, keeping oil flowing at reduced market price value. This practice has never ceased to be the case. The regimes were asked to forget how to make good use of produced oil, except for export necessities…

Second, keep market open for imported goods. It has always been the case: the regimes were not meant to figure out a way of manufacturing any goods worth exporting…

Third, Keep exporting the agricultural product and raw materials…at the expense of the famished population…

Fourth, fully controlling any “terrorist” activities outside State borders.  The regimes have been fulling cooperating with the CIA and other European secret service agencies, in all kinds of matters, including how to control internal protesters and opposition forces…

Fifth, keep purchasing arms from them, at the exclusion of Russia…This was the case of Qadhafi who got insane and decided last year to buy arms exclusively from Russia

Why the US Administration  and European States have reached this understanding? Fundamentally, they have given up on this region for any kind of liberal democratic institutions and political structure.  Consequently, let the people govern themselves the way they did for centuries, as long as they stay away within the US and European borders and don’t export their problems to the western States…

Do anyone believe that, once a religious Islamic political party, within a majority of the population of its sect (Sunni or Chiaa), will ever lose a “democratic” election? The Turkish MB are increasing their margin at every election, and the case of Chiaa Iran is blatant. What kind of democracy are we talking about in these cases?

I think that I am expressing the implicit opinion of the secular forces, and all the minority religious sects, whether Christian, Moslem, or otherwise. The western society and political elite have given up on the people of the Arab/Islamic countries, particularly in the Near-East region.  The next target is Syria, but this is another story.

All the States neighboring Syria know that a civil war in Syria will seriously affect the stability of their regimes (dictatorial, absolute monarchy, or otherwise…)  The neighboring States to Syria, including Turkey and Israel, know that the assurances of the US, European Union, the pseudo States in the Arabic/Iranian Gulf, and Saudi Arabia are crap:  They have no leverage in taming any mass upheavals, and worse, the spreading of civil wars within their own countries:  Arms are abundant, and the borders are long…

Note 1: You may read the precursor of the practical understanding between US and Turkish Moslem Brotherhood

Note 2: This post was partially inspired by the editorial of Sarkis Naoum in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar.

State Syria daily “Teshrine” (October): Who is the Syrian journalist Samira el Massalmeh?

Six months ago, basically since the start of the uprising in Syria against the regime of Bashar el Assad, Samira el Massalmeh was the chief editor of State Syria daily “Teshrine” for two and a half years.

Samira is the first woman to head a State daily. She said: “Many who are currently considered in the opposition movement, like Samir el Aitah, were welcomed to express their opinions in the State daily.  I suffered many pressures to desist permitting freedom of expression, given that most other “private”dailies refrained from these practices”.

(I wonder if there are actually private dailies in Syria, and would like Samira to respond to my question).

Samira resumed: “Not a single Syrian daily dared confront the Prime Minister for his abuse of power and firing many employees without judicial due recourse. I did it. And President Assad encouraged me to display corruption stories in front page. I also published accounts of the various threats that I received from government officials. I had not obtained any official notification to desisting in my investigations, but the frequent threats were there at every occasion. When I created a new section “Culture”, which was meant to open up to different cultural tendencies, officials did their best to close it.”

(Samira does discriminate among private dailies, government, and State dailies. I guess in developed State, there are implicitly dailies representing government opinion, but it is not made official. The majority of “private” dailies in developed States represent the State, and are the “disseminator” of the State orientations, guidelines, and supporters of the main funders (the government institutions), though these dailies never acknowledge their biases.  The same goes with opposition dailies. Very few “private” dailies consistently confront the power-to-be attitude and ideology).

Samira said: “I was the first to reasearch and express opinions on reforms of the political and social structure. At the start of this uprising, the code names of “reform” and “change” became true threat to the regime. The Syrian Parliament, which has no say in firing journalists, actually voted for firing me as chief editor. The struggle for reforms in ten years old: people wanted to transform Syria into a multiparty representation, democratic institutions…by reviewing the election laws and the legality of creating political parties… The vested interest of the elite class who enjoyed so much advantages during the last 30 years (Baath Party officials, Alawit minority, military officers…) feared changes and reforms”.

Samira said: “I once was threatened to be incarcerated (before I was offered the job of editor in chief) when I published accounts of fictitious companies obtaining investment rights and privileges with no institutions of review, control and inspection procedures and processes.

In the last six months, I have been saddened: My only outlet for writing is through Facebook, and I cannot withstand all that bloodshed.  We have been very late in comprehending Syria, and the various scenarios on putting an end to this upheaval will cost us heavily in human potential and economic growth and stability…

I feel like a prisoner, and my opinion is also incarcerated. I publish my stories of the period I was editor in chief of the daily Teshrine…” 

Note: Article inspired from the interview of Omar el Cheihk with Samira el Massalmeh in the Lebanese daily Al Nahar, on Oct.27, 2011

Why do drug dealers still live with their mothers? Who is Sudhir Venkatesh?

Sudhir Venkatesh was born in India and raised in upstate New York and southern California.

In 1989, Sudhir began his PhD in sociology at the Univ. of Chicago. He spent 3 months at the trail of the Grateful Dead, and grew hair up to his buttocks.

William Julius Wilson, graduate advisor to Sudhir, asked him to visit Chicago’s poorest black neighborhood with a clipboard and a 70-question, multiple-choice survey.  For example, “How do you feel about being black and poor”? Very bad, bad, neither, somewhat good

After the first encounter, Sudhir quickly would add another choice: “Fuck you nigger!”

Venkatesh met a gang group huddled in the stairwell of a condemned building: He was released 48 hours later.

One jittery gang foot soldier kept waving his gun and threatening: “What if he tells the rival gang about the stairwell hangout…”?

The leader JT of this franchise drug ring administered a lively taxonomy lesson to Judhir on how to discriminate among, black, African American, nigger…Venkatesh decided that he had to learn more how the Black Gangster Disciple Nation worked, from top to bottom.

For the next 6 years, Judhir lived among the gang families, and JT took him under his “protection”. Venkatesh listened carefully to diatribes such as “It’s war out here, man. Everyday, people struggling to survive.  We ain’t got no choice. We get killed, well, shit, it’s what niggers do around here to feed their family…”

Black Gangster Disciple Nation is one of the franchises, like any US corporation, and structured accordingly.

On the very top, you have 20 “board of director” members who earn each about half a million per year.  The franchise gang leader earns about $100,000, excluding extra other earnings of various off-the-books money and tax-free, and pays the board 20% on the gross revenue on the 12 blocks business area, (or whatever territory expansion a hostile takeover was engineered on a rival gang turf).

The three “officers” of the gang leader earn each about $7 per hour: You have the enforcer who ensure the “safety” of the gang members,  the treasurer who watch over the gang’s liquid assets, and the runner who transport drugs and money to and from suppliers…and the foot soldier, who spend hours outside and in corners, under all climatic weather conditions… earn $3.5 per hour.

The leader of another crack gang told Judhir that he could easily pay more his foot soldiers, but it wouldn’t be prudent “You got all these niggers below you who want your job, you dig? You try to take care of them, but you have to show them you the boss. You get your share first, or else you really ain’t no leader. If you start taking losses, they see you weak and shit…”

The Black Gangster Disciple Nation managed to open 100 franchises.

Consequently, the top  120 members of the 5,300 workers took home half the total profit.  The remaining gang members had to live with their mothers and keep on the lookout for a secondary job earning.

Ironically, this crack business had 20,000 unpaid rank-and-file members who paid dues, just in case the gang needs a replacement!

What of all these single mothers who had to raise children in precarious conditions and still had to bear them as adult, under constant fears and challenges?

One out of 10 gang members is killed (compared to 1 in 200 for timber cutter, the most dangerous job according to the Bureau of labor Statistics).

Over four years, Judhir recorded that on average, each gang members was arrested 6 times, suffered 2.4 non-fatal wounds and injuries (not including injuries meted out by the gang itself for rules violations).

One important item in expenses is compensation to victim’s family.

The franchise pays for the funeral and a stipend of up to three years’wages. As one gang member instructed Judhir: “We can’t just leave ’em out (the family of the victim). We been knowing these folks our whole lives, man, so we grieve when they grieve. You got to respect the family…”  Another reason for this generosity is fearing community backlash

In JT neighborhood where he operated,

56% of children lived below poverty line (compared to national average of 18%);

78% of children came from single-parent homes.

Less than 5% of the adult had a college degree;

Barely 1 in 3 male adults had a job.

Sudhir Venkatesh shared his data with his colleague Steven Levitt of the Society of Fellows of Harvard clubhouse, and wrote a joint paper.

Note: Article inspired by “FreakOnomics” of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

How to convert “Conventional Wisdoms” into success Freakonomics discoveries?

Conventional wisdoms are the process of flowing with what is convenient, comfortable, and comforting: They are not necessarily true in reality of life.  The smart imaginative mind has a feel of which wisdom is not true, then ask the right question, and intend to uncover the mystery in the problematic story.

Suppose the CIA calls you: It has plenty of data and it wants you to seep through the reams upon reams of data to figure out an algorithm for detecting money launderers and “terrorists”…to drone them out.

Suppose a former cyclist champion is suspicious that the current Tour de France is rife with doping, and he asks you to prove his suspicions…

Suppose a bagel salesman has gathered a lifelong data on his sales of bagel, and he wants you to have fun discovering a story behind the data…

Who could you be? What is your job? Are you a renowned scientist, a famous statistical analyst, a weird microeconomics professor, a highly educated crime investigator…?

Do you believe that the problems of this modern world are not impenetrable, and can be resolved, if the right questions are asked, and people are dedicated in uncovering the real story?  For example, you ask a question that interest you, and you discover the story behind the problem, such as:

1) Why most drug dealers still live with their mothers?

2) Which is more dangerous: Having a gun at home or a private swimming pool?

3) Why crime rate plunged dramatically in the last two decades and is still witnessing a steady decline, though population increased and the economy has its feet flailing up?

4) Why your real estate agent sells his own home at a higher price and stay longer on the market?

5) Does your stock broker has your best interest in mind?

6) Why black parents give their children names that they know may hurt their career prospects…?

7) Do school teacher cheat to meet high-stakes testing standards?

8) Why police departments distort crime data and eliminate cases from the records…?

Are you curious in divulging the real stories behind cheating, corruption, and criminal behaviors and activities?

Would you like to try answering the following questions:

1) Why obstetrician in area witnessing declining birth rates perform many more cesarean-section deliveries than in growing areas?

2) Why incumbent politicians are more likely to win a re-election? Suppose you were given plenty of data since 1976, and you can compare the performance of pairs of candidates who challenged one another in successive congressional races, for example, you have 1,000 such pair-kinds… Do you think that you have a better handle for measuring the influence of money in these races and quantify the amount of money necessary to win an election?

The critical factors to uncover in any problem are:

1) What are the incentives to behaving differently?

2) What may be the effects of distant causes, and not just focusing on recent factors? For example, Norma McCorvey (Jane Row) lawsuit for obtaining an abortion had greater impact on crime rate decline than all the combined factors that crime experts put forward as explanation…

3) To what extent do large data-bases serve the agenda of institutions and experts?

4) How can you device a measuring yardstick to approaching complicated and seemingly intractable problems?

5) Do you know what to measure and how to measure? For example, the proper dependent variables that are most relevant to the problem?

Ask weird questions that people care about, and surprise people with your alternative answers.

The main advantage of developed nations is that they keep records and gather data on a continuous basis in all kinds of behaviors and activities. Scholars can dig and seep through tons of available data to tell the correct story.  You torture and beat the crap out of any data until data is forced to divulge an answer.  A side advantage: You may land a Novel Prize, looming around the bend.

Note: Article inspired by “FreakOnomics” of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner




October 2011

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